In response to a public consultation on the establishment of an electoral commission in Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) calls on the Government to expedite the establishment of an electoral commission. It also comments on its potential mandate with regards to standards in political discourse, the right to participate in public, regulation of online political advertising, and advancing the equal participation of all groups.
Standards in political discourse during election and referendum campaigns
According to the IHREC, the electoral commission should be mandated to address the use of discriminatory rhetoric and hate speech in political campaigning by developing and promoting standards in political discourse during elections and referendums. In this regard, the IHREC mentions Equinet’s Recommendation on promoting equality and combatting discrimination in election campaigns as potential guidelines to establish such standards within the electoral commission.
To support this view, the Chief Commissioner of the IHREC, Emily Logan stated that:
“Elections are about showing leadership. While political debates during elections and referendums should be free and open, they should not create or entrench divisions in society. Hate speech and discriminatory rhetoric has no place in our politics.” Read more of the press release here
Participation in public life
The IHREC emphasizes the right of all to vote in elections as set out in domestic, European and international law. Referring to both Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 5(c) of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The latter setting out the State’s duty to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to vote and stand for election and take part in the conduct of public affairs.
Equal participation of all groups in Ireland’s democratic process.
In its recommendations, the IHREC advocates that the Electoral Commission should have a policy development role and should be specifically mandated to promote more equal political participation through information, education and facilitation programmes. Moreover, the Electoral Commission should engage groups facing barriers to participating in the Irish electoral process, such as women, persons with disabilities, young people, migrants and people from ethnic minority backgrounds including Travellers and Roma.
Read the full Response to the Public Consultation here