Human Rights Law Clinic

Clinic - Climate Change

The Human Rights Law Clinic at the Irish Centre for Human Rights was launched in 2019 and is directed by Dr Maeve O’Rourke. The Clinic is a 10 ECTS module and is open to applications from students on all LLM programmes at the ICHR.
The Clinic introduces students to the concept of ‘movement lawyering’ (alternatively described as ‘social change lawyering’ or ‘rebellious lawyering’)  and prepares and enables students to contribute their skills to community-based movements for social change.

Students learn about the human rights issues and movements which will be the focus of their clinical projects through their own in-depth research and, crucially, from community organisers who are working in the area on a daily basis. Students devise their clinical projects in coordination with community organisers and they then work in small groups over two semesters to produce legal research and analysis and/or other material which will hopefully make a positive contribution to the protection of human rights in Ireland and internationally.

The Clinic was launched in December 2019 at an event featuring a lecture on climate justice by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and an address by the Chief Justice of Ireland, the Hon. Mr. Justice Frank Clarke. You can watch this event, and Dr Maeve O'Rourke's explanation of the clinic's underpinning concepts and project work from 1 hour onwards, here.

Clinic - Safety Before LNG

Students’ contributions may take the form of, for example: evidence-gathering (including through Freedom of Information requests and Parliamentary Question drafting); information archiving and analysis; international, domestic and comparative legal research; report writing; drafting of correspondence to human rights bodies; drafting of responses to parliamentary or Governmental consultations; legislation drafting; website design; public information guide writing; newspaper/blog opinion writing; and/or multimedia production.

Students are encouraged to take the initiative to design their own activism strategies and activities, and to develop their own relationships with the community organisers involved in the Clinic’s work. Students are at the same time guided in their work through in-class presentation and reflection, peer-to-peer learning and collaboration, and academic supervision.

It is intended that, upon completion of the Human Rights Law Clinic module, students will:

  • understand several of the methods by which grassroots/community-based movements tend to work to achieve systemic social change;
  •  be aware of a range of strategies and skills that those with legal training and knowledge of human rights law can employ as part of a movement for social change;
  • have developed an ethical sense of how lawyers might approach and understand their work as part of a movement for social change;
  • have developed a critical perspective on the limitations of law as a tool for social change and of the positionality of lawyers vis-à-vis institutional, structural and societal oppression and discrimination;
  • have a basic knowledge of some of the key legal issues arising in areas of systematic human rights violations in Ireland and/or internationally; and
  • have contributed some practical assistance to existing movements for social change, guided by the needs and advice of those already working within those movements.

Clinic - Retention of Records

In the 2021-2022 academic year, under the supervision of Anne Driscoll, Judit Villena-Rodó, Pearce Clancy and Dr Maeve O'Rourke, students in the Human Rights Law Clinic are working alongside:

  • Care Champions
  • Mary Harney and the Clann Project
  • Osgur Breatnach
  • Anne Driscoll (on an Irish National Registry of Exonerations)
  • Eddie Mitchell and Brian Smith of Love Leitrim and Save Leitrim
  • Johnny McElligott of Safety Before LNG

In 2020-2021, students assisted:

  • Professor Siobhán Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
  • Johnny McElligott (Safety Before LNG), Eddie Mitchell (Love Leitrim) & Dianne Little (Letterbreen and Mullaghdun Partnership)
  • Evgeny Shtorn (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland)
  • John Lannon (Shannon Watch) 
  • Mary Harney (Adoption Rights Alliance) and Fionna Fox (Reclaiming Self)
  • Saoirse McHugh and Bridgi Murphy
  • Cassie Roddy Mullineaux and Loughlin O'Nolan (Article 8 Advocacy)
  • Una Reynolds (Galway Hygiene Bank)
  • Will Cummings, Eimear O'Grady and Clare O'Connor (Inner City Helping Homeless)

In 2019-2020, students carried out a range of research and advocacy activities alongside community-based groups in Ireland tackling issues including the treatment of children in the Direct Provision system; Ireland's (non-)performance regarding its climate change mitigation obligations; the need for national memorialisation and education regarding 'historical' abuses in institutional settings and the adoption system; and the ongoing lack of access to personal files or administrative records concerning 'historical' abuses in Magdalene Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, County Homes, residential schools and the adoption system.

Clinic - Tweet Montage


Further Reading

See, for discussion of the concepts of ‘movement lawyering’, ‘social change lawyering’ or ‘rebellious lawyering’, for example: Alexi Nunn Freeman and Jim Freeman, ‘It’s about power, not policy: movement lawyering for large-scale social change’ (2016) 23 Clinical L Rev 147; William P Quigley, ‘Reflections of Community Organizers: Lawyering for Empowerment of Community Organizations’ (1995) 21 Ohio N.U.L Rev 455; William P Quigley, ‘Letter to a Law Student Interested in Social Justice’ (2007) 1(1) De Paul Journal for Social Justice 7; Kenya Human Rights Commission: Theory of Change and Key Strategies; Human Rights Law Network, India: Our Journey