Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

29 January 2004 Edition

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Freedom Charter initiative launched

Aengus O Snodaigh, Caitríona Ruane, Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness at the launch of Sinn Féin's Rights for All document

Aengus O Snodaigh, Caitríona Ruane, Bairbre de Brún and Martin McGuinness at the launch of Sinn Féin's Rights for All document

Rights for All - A Sinn Féin Discussion Document


The creation of an Irish freedom charter — a charter for justice and peace in Ireland, a charter that brings together the demands for political and social and economic freedom — was first raised by Gerry Adams during the Peace Process.

For Sinn Féin, political freedom is nothing if it does not embrace political, economic, social, cultural and human rights. Parity of esteem, equality of treatment and full human rights must be guaranteed for all.

Gerry Adams was looking to the ANC's Freedom Charter when he proposed one for Ireland. Just as the ANC's Freedom Charter actively involved the people of South Africa in formulating their own vision of an alternative society, we hope that this document can stimulate debate and develop firm proposals on what sort of society people want for Ireland.

These include:

  • Equal rights for all;
  • Democracy — making it representative, accountable and responsive to people's needs;
  • Actively opposing discrimination;
  • Children's rights;
  • People with disabilities reaching their potential;
  • Public services, housing, health care and education;
  • The right to work — employment and trade union rights;
  • Natural resources and the environment;
  • Justice, the judiciary, policing and public safety;
  • Ireland's role, rights and responsibilities internationally.

We also have a responsibility to build an inclusive society that addresses the political allegiances of unionists and guarantees their rights and entitlements so that they have a sense of security and a stake in the new Ireland.

This document is not a tablet of stone. It is a framework of principles that we believe should be enshrined as rights in a progressive society. There may be others. There may be useful clarifications or changes needed. But we hope readers will see this document as a vehicle for debate, as a vehicle for change.

Sinn Féin will be proactively engaging with all sections of society — from community and trade union groups to voluntary organisations and all shades of political opinion throughout the island of Ireland.

We want to hear your views - whether as individuals or members of representative organisations. We want to encourage discussion. We want to stimulate ideas. We want a Charter of Rights for All.

Democratic Rights for All

1. The people of Ireland have the right to national self-determination.

2. The Government of Ireland shall be democratically elected, composed of the elected representatives chosen by the sovereign people through universal suffrage

3. Every Irish citizen at the age of 16 shall be entitled to vote in all elections and to stand as candidate for public office.

4. All necessary measures will be taken to ensure the right of all sections of society, particularly women and also minorities, to fair, full and equal participation in public life. This must include participation in decision-making processes and access to power.

5. Elected representatives shall be entitled to and accorded fair, full and effective participation in the governance of Ireland.

6. The people have the right to a truly responsive democracy and to expect a government to expedite action to redress legitimate grievances. All people, regardless of socio-economic status, will have the right to access and influence decision makers. They also have the right to be involved in shaping the decisions that affect them.

7. The people have the right to good governance. Policy decisions must be made on the basis of public-good criteria, taking full account of all associated direct and indirect social and economic costs, and not dominated by private profit motive.

8. Government shall be responsible and accountable to the people for the proactive implementation of their rights.

9. Government shall be accountable to the people and be based on openness, transparency and effective freedom of information legislation.

10. Political institutions will be accountable to and representative of the people.

11. All public policies shall be equality proofed, poverty proofed and human rights proofed and based on international best practice.

Rights for All

"The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government which have divided a minority from the majority in the past."

Proclamation of the Republic, 1916

"We declare that the nation's sovereignty extends not only to all the men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation and... we affirm that all right to private property must be subordinate to the public right and welfare."

Democratic Programme of the First Dáil, 1919

  • The founding principle of the Republic proclaimed in 1916 is to cherish all the children of the nation equally and to share a peaceful future embodied in a united and democratic state, underpinned by indivisible common values of human dignity, equality and justice, is our goal. The ultimate guarantors are the people of Ireland.
  • We commit ourselves to the fullest promotion and protection of rights through a process that aims to advance national reconciliation, underpin political democracy, promote and develop economic democracy, and provide for the comprehensive, systematic, effective and entrenched protection of all rights outlined here.
  • For many citizens the political institutions on this island are exclusionary, inaccessible and unaccountable.
  • Sinn Féin believes that this Charter will contribute to a wider endeavour to harmonise and enshrine the rights of all people on the island of Ireland and affirm as individual and universal the values of human dignity, equality, justice and freedom.
  • We pledge ourselves to work until the principles of democratic governance and human rights that are set out here gain maximum expression.

Equal Rights for All

1. Nothing shall justify the domination of one section of the people by another or the domination of one person by another (eg harassment and bullying).

2. Everyone living in Ireland is equal before the law and has the right to the protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, nationality, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, social or economic status, marital or family status, residence, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, trade union membership, or status as a victim.

3. The right outlined above does not preclude any law, programme or activity that has as its objective the improvement of conditions of individuals or groups (including those listed above).

4. Everyone belonging to a national, ethnic, religious or linguistic community (including the deaf community) shall have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion and to use their own language, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland.

5. All public services shall be made available in both Irish and English and, where appropriate, in other minority languages.

6. The state will recognise the unique status of Irish, and the specific rights of Irish speakers. No citizen will be placed at a disadvantage as a result of having Irish as their first language or as their language of choice.

7. Everyone has the right to be nomadic or sedentary and the right to change from one mode of living to another.

Human Rights and Protection for All

1. Everyone has the right to life.

2. Every person has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental abuse, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse. This includes sectarian, homophobic and racial abuse, neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse. The state will protect against sectarian, racist or homophobic abuse and harassment, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

3. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person, which includes the right:

a) Not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause;

b) Not to be detained without trial;

c) To be free from all forms of violence from both public and private sources;

d) Not to be tortured; and

e) Not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

4. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right:

a) To make decisions concerning reproduction;

b) To security in and control over their body; and

c) Not to be subjected to medical or scientific intervention without their informed consent.

5. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. There shall be freedom of the press and other media.

6. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.

7. Everyone has the right to assemble, freely associate and to demonstrate.

8. These rights to freedom of expression, beliefs and assembly are limited only insofar as their exercise does not infringe on any of the rights stated in this Charter, including the rights of others not to be intimidated, bullied or discriminated against.

9. Everyone will have freedom of movement.

10. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her privacy, to be secure against universal or unreasonable surveillance (including electronic) and search or seizure, whether of the person, property, communication or otherwise.

11. The judicial system will be a fair, effective, impartial and accountable system, basing itself on the rights outlined in this Charter (and the Bill of Rights) which will command the support and confidence of all parts of the community.

12. Everyone shall have the right of access to quality legal representation.

13. Everyone shall have the right to trial by their peers.

14. All emergency legislation will be repealed.

15. The judicial process will be predicated on rehabilitation and integration into society. No one detained will lose the right to be treated in a humane manner with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

16. The public service, including the police, will be open to all and shall be representative of the community and accountable to the community.

17. Policing on the island will conform to the highest standards of human rights, accountability, impartiality, transparency and effectiveness. Any use of force deemed necessary will be based on the principle and practice of minimum force.

All Children Cherished Equally

1. Every child has the right to be protected from all forms of physical, emotional or mental violence, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, injury or abuse (including sectarian and racial abuse), neglect, bullying, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual exploitation or abuse.

2. All children born on the island are citizens, and as such have the right to remain in Ireland, in the care and company of their parent(s), regardless of the national origin of the parent(s).

3. Children have the right to be heard, to be consulted in all matters affecting them and to access information about their person.

4. The child's best interest will be the paramount consideration in every matter concerning the child.

5. The state will provide adequate support and assistance to parents and other primary carers to enable all children, insofar as is possible, to grow up and thrive in a stable and safe environment where the child is valued and encouraged to attain their full potential.

6. All children will have access to childcare and crèche facilities of a high standard.

7. Education is a right. All children will have access to free education.

People with Disabilities Reaching their Full Potential

1. Every person living with a disability has the right to have their whole person recognised, their capabilities valued and developed to full potential, and their dignity respected.

2. All people with disabilities have the right to make choices about their lives and to be consulted, heard and resourced in all matters affecting them.

3. Disabled persons shall be protected against all exploitation, all regulations and all treatment of a discriminatory, abusive or degrading nature

4. People with disabilities have the right to a poverty-free life facilitated by direct payments to offset the cost of disability, and to equal access and equal participation in education, employment, and training.

5. People with disabilities have the right to access appropriate, co-ordinated services. The state has the duty to provide such services as well as proper individual needs assessments.

Social and Economic Rights for All

1. There will be no systematic or institutional discrimination against any section of the people of Ireland or those living on the island of Ireland.

2. Government shall have a duty to ensure that all individuals are afforded equality of opportunity and equality of access.

3. Government shall have a duty to take proactive and affirmative actions to ensure social and economic equality.

4. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

5. Everyone has the right to contribute to the economic and social life of Irish society and to reach their full potential.

6. Healthcare services will be free to all. There will be equality of access to health promotion and treatment and prevention of ill health.

7. Everyone shall have equal and free access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and to information and education relating to sexual and reproductive matters at all levels, free of coercion, discrimination or violence.

8. All people have the right to free and secular education and access to life-long learning opportunities.

9. Everyone has the right to a fair contract of employment with remuneration above the statutory minimum wage.

10. Everyone has the right to work in safe conditions that are not harmful to health and wellbeing.

11. Workers have the right to form and join trade unions, negotiate contracts of employment, the right to picket and to withhold their labour.

12. Those people who work in the home and/or as primary carers have the right to proper recognition of their economic contribution to both individual households and the national economy.

13. Everyone has the right to housing. The state will have the duty to provide adequate and appropriate accommodation for everyone.

14. The state has an obligation to protect and nurture our national resources from waste and despoliation for the benefit of this and future generations, and to ensure an environment that is not harmful to the health and wellbeing of the people.

15. Everyone — regardless of income or region of residence — has an equal right to access basic essential public services. Such basic essential services include (but are not limited to) adequate domestic energy supply, water supply, sewage and waste disposal and public transport services.

16. The state has a duty to develop, provide, and manage such essential public services in ways that are equitable, economically and environmentally sustainable, and based on international best practice.

17. The operation of market competition will not be allowed to develop in such a way as to result in the concentration of the ownership or control of essential goods, including property, in the hands of a few individuals or corporations to the common detriment.

18. The state shall provide universal public services for all requiring those services, based on best international practice, and shall fund these services through direct progressive taxation. The taxation system shall be based on the principles of fairness and transparency.

Peace and Reconciliation

1. The state shall provide the necessary resources to address the legacy of the conflict in Ireland.

2. A just peace, reconciliation and community relations based on mutual respect and co-operation between our communities and with the state's institutions shall be secured by upholding the equal rights, opportunities and status of all.

Ireland in the World

1. Ireland shall be an independent sovereign state which respects the rights of sovereignty of all nations in keeping with (and subject to the constraints of) international law.

2. Ireland affirms its commitment to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice. Ireland commits itself to work towards greater global political and economic equality, including trade relations of mutual advantage between the nation states in the world.

3. Ireland asserts its adherence to the principle of the peaceful settlement of international disputes through international arbitration or judicial determination.

4. Remembering the experience of emigration, any person who seeks sanctuary from persecution or who hopes to build a better life and make a constructive contribution here will be welcomed to our shores


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