What will Ireland’s Special Envoy to the UN on Freedom of Expression actually do?
Obviously there should have been a transparent procedure to select Ireland’s Special Envoy to the UN on Freedom of Expression. But a more important issue is what does the job consist of, and why was the position created?
A Government spokesman said that the Special Envoy would “focus on freedom of opinion and expression, to provide high-level engagement on a small number of established Irish human rights priorities.” But what exactly are these unidentified “Irish priorities”?
Are they Irish priorities that would strengthen freedom of expression, and we need a Special Envoy to ensure that the UN does not weaken it?
For example, are they related to helping the UN to put pressure on other countries to remove their blasphemy and apostasy laws following our recent example?
Or are they Irish priorities that would weaken freedom of expression, and we need a Special Envoy to ensure that the UN does not obstruct the State from doing that?
For example, are they related to supporting proposed new hate speech laws, which would weaken freedom of expression and could bring back blasphemy laws by another name?
Or are they related to supporting the Department of Education’s policy to teach children to respect the content of religious beliefs, which undermines freedom of conscience and expression?
Atheist Ireland has engaged with the UN for many years in relation to freedom of expression. We use UN recommendations and reports when we lobby to change the Irish Constitution, law, policy, and attitudes on freedom of expression.
We don’t believe that the UN needs help from Ireland in relation to freedom of expression. In our experience, the relationship is the other way around. We need transparency about exactly what unidentified “Irish priorities” the Special Envoy will be promoting.
The manner in which it has been handled can only fuel suspicion that the above misgivings have substance to them. The final paragraph nails the issue.