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Politicians left with nowhere to hide on abortion

I have an opinion editorial in yesterday’s online and today’s print edition of the Irish Times on the next steps following the Citizens Assembly recommendations on abortion law reform in ireland. The full piece is available here, and here is a taste of its main argument:

It has already been reported that some politicians consider the committee’s purpose to be to water down the assembly’s proposals. This is a curious way, indeed, to think about the role of a committee established to consider the views of an assembly the Oireachtas itself established, and it is hard to see it as anything other than contemptuous of the process and the assembly members.

So what is the committee for?

Of course, it is not slavishly bound by the recommendations of the assembly, but surely its purpose is to take the broad recommendations and consider how they might be given practical effect.

The assembly clearly called for the State to fundamentally rethink its legal approach to abortion. Surely, the role of the committee, rather than frustrate that demand, is to inform the Oireachtas of the options for doing so.

Otherwise, one might reasonably ask whether the Citizens Assembly was simply a stalling tactic all along.

Triggering Article 50: The task that lies ahead

This week I wrote the Birmingham Brief, a briefly insight from University of Birmingham academics into a matter relevant to current politics and policy-making. All Birmingham Briefs can be accessed here.

On March 29, the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50, starting the official Brexit process. As a result, unless all parties agree to an extension, the UK will officially leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.

The task ahead in these two years is colossal. It is clearly in the interests of both the UK and the European Union (and its 27 remaining member states) that Brexit is orderly. In other words, that to the extent possible, arrangements are made to ensure that agreement is reached in relation to major areas, such as trade, data sharing and data protection, and travel. The UK’s relationship with some particular member states, such as Ireland, will also require special attention, not least to try to find a way to ensure that the Common Travel Areathat is so important to the two countries’ continuing relationships of politics, history, trade, friendship and kin can be sustained. All of the remaining EU27 will have an interest in making sure that their citizens, who reside in the UK, are protected and continue to enjoy security in their lives in this country, and of course the same is true for UK citizens living in other EU states. Continue reading Triggering Article 50: The task that lies ahead

Can infringement proceedings ‘solve’ the ECtHR’s non-execution problem?

The final version of new article, written with Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, is now published in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly. The article, entitled (rather pessimistically) “Mission Impossible? Addressing Non-Execution through Infringement Proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights”, picks up on a recent proposal that Article 46(4) of the ECHR would be used to address non-execution. This allows the Committee of Ministers to refer a case back to the Court in the case of non-execution by the contracting state. In short, we argue that such an approach is misguided on three grounds: practicality, futility, and backlash. Fundamentally, we say, the proposed solution does not ‘fit’ the problem of non-execution properly understood. Continue reading Can infringement proceedings ‘solve’ the ECtHR’s non-execution problem?

The Submissions I would read if I were a member of the Citizens Assembly

The Citizens Assembly has announced the 17 groups that have been invited to address the Assembly members at the March meeting. This follows relatively hot on the heels of its selection of 300 ‘random’ submissions to be brought to members’ attention, as well as the (continuing) uploading of the 13,000+ submissions that were sent to the Assembly either online or by post.

The selection of the sample and of groups to present to the Assembly has attracted some criticism, including from me. It would appear that the Assembly has taken an extremely limited approach to the concept of balance, understanding it as meaning one side ‘balancing out’ another, without regard to points of extremity, the fact that contestation is complex, the possibility of multiple points of disagreement along a scale and so on. In addition, the selection of the random sample of 300 submissions was undertaken without even the barest methodological rigour one would expect of, say, an undergraduate student by, for example, determining first the volume of submissions that were ‘template’ or repeat submissions, the broad proportions of submissions calling for repeal or retention, and then sampling from a ‘proper’ sample (with one of each template, for example) in a manner proportionate to the overall submission rates. Furthermore, in inviting people to address the Assembly it would appear that any lawyers who had ever written specifically on the issue of abortion law reform in Ireland were excluded (although not practising lawyers who had acted in abortion law cases), and the submissions of those lawyers (disclosure: this includes me) were not identified as being in any way potentially more useful or more likely to propose solutions than those of anyone else. This is in spite of the fact that at every meeting members of the Assembly have repeatedly asked for solution-oriented/forward-facing and comparative approaches to be presented to them. Continue reading The Submissions I would read if I were a member of the Citizens Assembly