Annual Lecture 2022: Emergency Powers and the Executive: Reflections on the Past and a Vision for the Future - Remarks by Sinéad Gibney

Pagespp 208 - 216
Published date12 July 2022
Date12 July 2022
Remarks by
ank you to the Hibernian Law Journal for the opportunity to speak here this
evening. We have been through an unprecedented event and it is so important for
us to have this kind of dialogue – explore what happened, reect on the collective
experience. And it is a pleasure to speak alongside such an illustrious panel. I am
very excited to read the book, and I oer my congratulations to Hugh and Jack.
I am going to hopefully complement the other contributions, by talking to you
about, rst, the human rights and equality principles which must inform any use
of emergency powers. en, I will discuss some comments on the particular role
of An Garda Síochána in the exercise of emergency powers during the pandemic.
I am then going to cover the role that the Irish Human Rights and Equality
Commission (‘IHREC’) played, the organisation that I lead, in upholding and
monitoring human rights and equality standards throughout the pandemic. Finally,
I will discuss what we would like to see happen to prevent some of the same issues
As I go through each of those four topics – the principles, the role of the Gardaí,
our IHREC activities, and plans for the future – I want to connect each topic to a
personal memory from the pandemic. I do not know about you but I have found it
mind-blowing how quickly we move on from the collective experience of what we
have all just been through. We accepted, to varying degrees, huge limitations and
truly fundamental changes in our lives and our routines, and then it seems that just
as quickly, we have forgotten them.
I. Principles
First, I want to talk through the human rights principles which ensure that the
deployment of emergency powers are done in a way that best balances the rights
and liberties that we all enjoy.
* Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney leads the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
having been appointed by President Michael D. Higgins in July 2020. Sinéad was the inaugural
Director of the Commission, bringing together the former legacy bodies in the merger period and
building up the organisation in terms of teams, facilities, planning and structure. Prior to this she
built and led Google Ireland’s corporate social responsibility function, Social Action. Sinéad has
also worked in providing training, consultancy and media production to a range of organisations
in the civil society and public sectors. Any views or opinions expressed in this piece are the personal
views and opinions of the author.

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