As a result of the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention in March 2014, the issue of constitutional protection for socio-economic rights is once more up for debate. Part of the backdrop to these recommendations was the opposition of the Irish Supreme Court to the use of litigation to identify such rights. In this carefully argued book, Gerry Whyte defends the constitutional and political legitimacy of such litigation. He argues that one can infer a commitment to social inclusion from the text of the Constitution and that where the political system has failed to address the needs of marginalized groups, the most appropriate agency for policing that constitutional norm is the judiciary.
Whyte also evaluates the effectiveness of litigation in obtaining improved State support for a number of marginalised groups - children with learning difficulties, children from dysfunctional families, social welfare claimants, Travellers and litigants seeking free legal aid. He concludes that litigation is a limited, but nonetheless useful, mechanism for promoting social inclusion, capable of requiring the political system to address issues of social exclusion that would otherwise be ignored and, in appropriate circumstances, capable of achieving substantive change.
In the final part of the book, the author examines the role of the law generally in tackling social exclusion, with particular reference to Ireland. He examines different models of legal aid and concludes that while the legal system is not capable of generating radical change in society, the strategic model of legal aid is capable of achieving limited but nonetheless worthwhile social reforms. In addition to updating the book since the publication of the first edition in 2002, the second edition contains new material on the use of European law in public interest litigation before the Irish courts and on the experience of the South African courts in applying the constitutional guarantees of socioeconomic rights contained in the post-apartheid Constitution.
About the Author
Gerry Whyte is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin with research interests in the areas of constitutional law, social welfare law and public interest law. He has also worked closely with a number of NGOs including the Public Interest Law Alliance, Community Law and Mediation Ltd., the Free Legal Advice Centres Ltd., the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and Mercy Law Resource Centre.