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Andrew Tettenborn: EU ‘human rights’ busybodies won’t let up


Ireland has just been officially inspected. No: this wasn’t some EU investigation of bathing beaches, or a probe into CAP funds insinuated into some politician’s back pocket, but a three-day compliance visit last year from Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner. The result? A “could do better” report, the content of which is wearily predictable.

Stay-at-home mothers? Bad. Article 41 of the Constitution officially recognises that women at home contribute much to the well-being of the State. This is indubitably true, and indeed one might have thought acceptable to at least some feminists – remember the “wages for housework” campaign? But the Grievance-finder General knows better. Such an appalling perpetuation of stereotypes must be immediately suppressed and supplanted by a boring commendation of carers generally.

Education and the media? Ouch! they portray women “essentially as mothers whose role is to take care of the children and the home”. This must be stopped, too. How? No details, perhaps wisely. But one suggestion (which could have come from some pen-pusher in a Labour London borough) is memorable: the report pompously “encourages the Irish authorities to make full use of the materials developed by the Council of Europe experts in the context of the Council of Europe Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017”. (To read that turgid and soporific screed, if you must, see here).

Sex education? Bottom grade. The Commissioner can hardly hide his incredulity. Schools are actually allowed to use an approach determined by their ethos; parents can withdraw children from RSE on grounds of conscience; and much time is spent on “negative aspects” (i.e. disease, risk, crisis pregnancy). Outrageous! We need mandatory, comprehensive, state-dictated, non-judgmental sexuality education for everyone, and we need it now. Schools must be prohibited from applying any principles of their own, all (of course) in the interests of avoiding “patchy and biased teaching”.

But you can guess where sparks fly: abortion. Ireland, horror of horrors, does not enthusiastically promote abortion on demand: indeed, Ireland’s people actually voted in 1983 to guarantee constitutionally the right to life of the unborn child on an equal level with that of the mother. This will absolutely not do. Abortion must be decriminalised. The Constitution? A tiresome obstacle to be cleared away in the name of modernity: “The Commissioner stresses that the Eighth Amendment … protecting the right to life of the unborn on an equal basis with the right to life of the pregnant woman, departs from the position consistently held by human rights bodies that the right to life, as enshrined in relevant international treaties, does not apply to prenatal life. Given the crucial role the Amendment plays in preventing a comprehensive reform of the legal regime governing the termination of pregnancy in Ireland, he strongly hopes that it will be removed soon.” So now, after that exercise in lofty self-righteousness, you know. Forget people’s votes and constitutions. Human rights bodies have the last word on morality, and you’d better get used to it.

All this is of course a monstrous attempt by an international busybody to dictate to one of the least oppressive and most democratic governments in Europe. But what is this Council of Europe anyway?

For the most part it’s a harmless if worthy talking-shop open to all European states, EU or non-EU (even the EU shares its flag and anthem and it costs the UK taxpayer just shy of €50m a year). Predating the EU by eight years, it’s something that gives the occasional MP an expenses-paid trip to Strasbourg and a chance to let off some hot air.

Unfortunately, in terms of human rights it is becoming a hidden menace. This is not simply because it administers the European Convention on Human Rights, which as TCW readers will know is itself highly problematical. Matters go further. Note this: every one of the above demands made on Ireland goes beyond the requirements of the Convention. There is no human right to suppress gender stereotypes or to have wall-to-wall sex education, and certainly no such right to abortion. Unfortunately, this does not worry the Council of Europe. Aided and abetted by the present Commissioner, the well-meaning but ultimately baneful Nils Muižnieks (who has previous form on TCW here), it is now apparently happy to abuse its position as guardian of human rights in Europe in order to push on all of us its overall leftish agenda – think egalitarian social democratic, Scandinavian-style – as something essential to acceptance as a civilised nation.

Electorates and religious believers might have to be humoured, but our enlightened Euro-guardians know that outdated ideas of this sort ultimately need to be elbowed out of the way. Democracy, in other words, means that a nation can have any social system its people care to choose, but only so long as that system fits the brave new world of the Council and its well-paid international acolytes.

(Image: James Russell)

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Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn
Andrew Tettenborn is a professor of commercial law at a well-known UK university, who also teaches in Europe and elsewhere. In the 2001 General Election he stood as Ukip’s candidate in Bath.

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