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18 OCT 2012
TENI Press Release: Human Rights Spotlight Turned on Ireland
5 Years On and Still No Recognition
This morning the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks turned the human rights spotlight on Ireland and its failure to provide gender recognition for its transgender residents.
Commissioner Muižnieks was speaking at ILGA-Europe's Annual Conference, which is being held in Dublin 18-21 October 2012. Commissioner Muižnieks acknowledged Dr Lydia Foy’s long struggle to be recognised by the State. Referring to Ireland's upcoming gender recognition legislation, he declared that it was "absolutely essential there are no undue restrictions” that would prevent people from accessing recognition. The current proposals for Ireland include two controversial requirements: transgender people who are married would be forced to divorce, and all transgender applicants would be forced to undergo a diagnosis of having a mental illness.
"The current proposals are callous," said Broden Giambrone, Director of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). "We work with people who are in happy marriages with children. Why should they have to choose between their family and their identity? No-one should have to make such a choice. The Government needs to rethink this."
Commissioner Muižnieks's words are timely, with this Friday 19 October marking the fifth anniversary of the High Court ruling that the State was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by failing to recognise Dr Foy in her female gender and provide her with a new birth certificate. Mr Justice Liam McKechnie's ruling was the first declaration of incompatibility to be made under the ECHR Act. At that time, Justice McKechnie called on the Irish Government to prioritise Gender Recognition Legislation as a matter of urgency. The then Government instead appealed the case to the Supreme Court, finally dropping their challenge in June 2010. “Five years later and Ireland is still in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights,” continued Giambrone. “Trans people are part of Irish society: we have families; we work and study and pay taxes. How much longer is the Government going to withhold transgender human rights? Dr Foy first asked for her birth certificate in 1993. How much longer does she have to wait?”
Speaking from the conference, Dr Lydia Foy said, “I’m very very weary but I’m also optimistic. We pride ourselves internationally on our human rights record, but we need to look nationally.”
Also speaking from the conference, Tiernan Brady, Chair of the Dublin ILGA-Europe conference committee said, "There is a marked contrast between the high level of progress on lesbian and gay rights in Ireland and the lack of progress on transgender rights. Ireland ranks very poorly on rights and protections for transgender people and we need to highlight the urgent need for progress.”
"Ireland has an opportunity to lead Europe with gender recognition legislation that will be inclusive, progressive and long-lasting," concluded Giambrone. "We need to get this right, and we need to do it now."