The recent proposal by the government to withdraw medical cards from people over 70 must be seen as a very serious attempt to abuse and undermine the human rights of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, Alice Leahy, TRUST and Member of the Irish Human Rights Commission said today (TUES., 21 October, 2008). Calling for a major focus on the human rights of the most vulnerable during the current economic downturn Alice Leahy said that “any complacency on the part of agencies involved in human rights in Ireland, which seem to focus exclusively on political and civil rights, while ignoring the governments responsibility to protect our economic and social rights can, as we have seen in recent days, put the most vulnerable at grave risk.”

“The incomprehension by people from all walks of life, and in every political party, at the attempt by the government to remove medical cards from people over seventy is a reflection that we perceive access to adequate to health care as a basic right. It is rightly unthinkable that we would consciously put lives at risk to save money. There is disbelief in equal measure that anyone would put at risk the decent education services of the next generation by increasing class sizes, because we see that as a very fundamental right as well,” Alice Leahy said.

“This budget represents one of the most serious attacks on the basic rights of the most vulnerable in recent times and it must be seen in those terms. Human rights are not just about political and civil rights and all agencies, especially government and state agencies, far from attacking the fundament rights of the elderly and primary school students, must make a virtue out of protecting and vindicating those rights. All human rights agencies and bodies must become involved in efforts to ensure that happens. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that removal of medical cards from people who cannot afford adequate health care is not only short sighted but will put lives at risk, and balancing the books is surely not worth the death of a single elderly person or the denial of one child to a decent education,” Alice Leahy said.