flacNewsI S S N 0 7 9 1 4 1 4 8 l V O L u M E 2 3 l N u M B E R 4 l O C T O B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 3
F R E E L E G A L A D V I C E C E N T R E S
Law as a vehicle for social changeMartin OBrien delivers 7 thannual Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture
The Seventh Annual Dave EllisMemorial Lecture took place on5 December in the Pillar Room ofthe Rotunda Hospital, Dublin and wasattended by over 160 people, made up ofcurrent and former FLAC volunteers, staffand interns, our colleagues in the legalprofession and wider NGO sector,members of the judiciary and othersupporters. We were particularlyhonoured this year that President MichaelD. Higgins and his son Michael attendedthe event in a personal capacity. This yearsspeaker, Martin OBrien, human rightscampaigner and Senior Vice President forProgrammes at the Atlantic Philanthropies,was invited to speak about access tojustice. He placed a particular focus onpublic interest litigation and the law as avehicle of social change.
Peter Ward SC, Chair of FLACs NationalCouncil, introduced Martin OBrien andprovided some of the context for thelecture, noting the huge funding challengesfaced by organisations in the fields ofhuman rights and social justice at presentand acknowledging the role of the AtlanticPhilanthropies in supporting FLAC overthe last number of years, in particular theircommitment to moving beyond servicedelivery and funding law reform andcampaign work, seeing these as essentialcomponents in effecting long-term andsustainable change.
Mr OBrien began his lecture by payingtribute to the late Dave Ellis, a communityactivist who dedicated his career toworking with community groups in areasincluding welfare rights, legal aid, legaleducation and legal entitlements generally,noting that Dave Ellis was one of the first
people with whom Atlantic Philanthropiesworked when they were considering thebest approach to advancing law in thepublic interest in Ireland.
Although the law is meant to make theworld a fairer and a more humane place,Mr OBrien observed that it often fallsshort of that goal and is not equallyaccessible by all, commenting: Those whoneed its protection most, are often leastable to avail of it. He mentioned the workof FLAC and other independent lawcentres such as Northside CommunityLaw & Mediation Centre in seeking tomake up for this deficit.
Mr OBrien focused on how law can bechanged to create a fairer and accessiblejustice system, noting that while grant-makers such as the Atlantic Philanthropiescan support organisations to have animpact in this regard, they are almost
insignificant in comparison to whatGovernment could offer. He put it toattendees that government policy hasgreat potential to bring about broadersystematic change, with law central to howthis can be achieved, as it regulates ourrelationship with the state and with othersand how we perceive ourselves and areperceived.
Noting that it is not always necessary tocreate new laws or to extinguish old law,but often just a question of fully and fairlyimplementing laws that already exist, MrOBrien highlighted that public interestlitigation can play a key role here. He drewon the example of the multi-decade andstill ongoing case of Dr Lydia Foy inpursuit of gender recognition fortransgender people in this respect.
Mr OBrien then looked further afield toSouth Africa, noting the effective use of
Continued on page 8
L-R: Martin OBrien, FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell, President Michael D Higgins, CCLRP Director
Carol Coulter, FLAC Senior Solicitor Michael Farrell. Photo by Derek Speirs
FLAC News WINTER 2013 QK9.qxp_FLAC05 vol15no4 22/01/2014 17:02 Page 1
Social Welfare Tourism is a termthat has become commonplacein the media in recent times andwhich has gone relatively unchallengeduntil now. The European Commissionpublished a report in October this year onthe impact of non-active Eu migrants onsocial welfare budgets. The main finding ofthe report highlighted that there is not asubstantial burden on Member Statessocial security systems from Eu migrantsthat move between Member States. Non-active Eu migrants mainly includejobseekers, pensioners, disabled persons,students and non-active single parents. InIreland 3% of the population is categorisedas non-active Eu migrants, reflecting thehigh intra-Eu migration to long standingEu Member States.
The study clearly showed that mobile Eucitizens do not use social security systemsmore intensively than nationals of theirhost countries and that generally,economically non-active Eu citizens inMember States account for an insignificantnumber of welfare beneficiaries. Thus theeffect on social security budgets isrelatively low. Eu migrants were onlyaccountable for 1% to 5% of Eu-widenational social welfare budgets. Irelandsfigure of just over 5% was an estimate anddid not disaggregate between applicantsand beneficiaries for the purpose of thisresearch; as such, this figure does notaccurately reflect the numbers of Eumigrants accessing social security inIreland which would result in a lowerfigure than that supplied by thegovernment.
The Eu Commissioner for Employment,Social Affairs and Inclusion was quoted assaying that the majority of mobile Eucitizens move to another Member State towork and [the study] put into perspectivethe dimensions of the so-called benefittourism which is neither widespread norsystematic. However, the Commissionerdid state that he could understand how asudden large influx of people from otherEu countries could put a strain on certaingeographical areas within a country,leading to problems with housing,education and infrastructure. He said hewas prepared to engage with MemberStates and to help municipal authoritiesand others use the European Social Fundto its full extent.
The study also went on to find that mobileEu citizens appear to be employable morereadily than the nationals of the hostcountry in which they reside and that thenumber of mobile Eu citizens employed inhost countries has increased dramaticallyover the last seven years. Most mobile Eucitizens had been employed previously intheir country of origin prior to migratingand the number of inactive Eu citizens inMember States is currently slightly lessthan 1%.
Finally, the study recognised that the costsassociated with healthcare for non-activeEu citizens in Member States arenegligible relative to the size of totalhealth spending and the size of theeconomy of the host country.
The report also exposes deficiencies indata collection in Member States,evidenced in the methodology section, inparticular in Ireland in terms of thenumbers of Eu migrants in receipt ofsocial security payments.
The issue of welfare tourism has beensimilarly contentious in the uK,particularly in light of the newly proposedimmigration bill whose main aim is toprevent illegal immigrants and to ensurethat migrants are prevented from claimingbenefits to which they have noentitlement. However, it was recentlydiscovered that the British governmenthas no records of the number of non-British Eu citizens claiming welfarebenefits.
With the publication of the report, EuCommissioner for Justice, FundamentalRights and Citizenship Viviane Redingproposed a five-point plan to crack downon benefit abuse in Eu states andproposed putting measures in place tomake them more aware of the habitualresidency guidelines so that memberstates will be better able to understandwhat the welfare entitlements of mobileEu migrants are in their host country.Finally, Commissioner Reding proposed atop-up of the European Social Fund andgreater assistance for local authorities tohelp them to better understand Eu freemovement rules.
Download Report at: bitly/1dQrMqi
flac News | Vol. 23, No. 4
in this edition...Law as a vehicle for social change 1 & 8
De-bunking the myth of Welfare Tourism 2
Coroners Juries selected by Garda: Time to reform system 3FLAC legal information videos launched 3
Steady rise in calls to FLAC by Q3 of 2013 4More bankruptcy law changes 4
A tax on the poor: Changes to Legal Aid scheme damaging access to justice 5
Pre-budget forum allows NGO input 5
Transgender Recognition Bill deeply flawed 6
International body to intervene in Foy case 7
Child Care Law Reporting Projectlaunches interim report 7
Social security schemes across Europe 9
ESC Rights for Convention? 9
Focus on FLAC:FLAC Student Societies 10
Focus on FLAC:Yvonne OSullivan, Policy & Advocacy Officer 11
Civil legal aid changes - FLAC legalresources update 11
PILA Progress Report launched 12
Staff updates 12
Putting Equality and Human Rights into Budgeting 13
Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2013 14
Northside Community Law & Mediation Centre hosts social welfare roundtable 15
2014 Fellowship application process has begun 16
uN High Commissioner for HumanRights visits Dublin 16
Funding FLAC 16
FLAC NEWS is published quarterly by Free LegalAdvice Centres Ltd., 13 Lower Dorset Street, D1.
Editors: Noeline Blackwell, Emma Cassidy & YvonneWoods
Layout & Printing: Printwell Design, D3
Contributors: Ollie Browne, Emer Butler, EmmaCassidy, Megan