Meet Saoirse Brady
Activist Lawyer, Featuring Saoirse Brady, Launches
The latest podcast episode of Activist Lawyer features Saoirse Brady, Executive Director within the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT).
Saoirse joined the IPRT in May 2022 after working with the Children's Rights Alliance as Head of Legal, Policy and Public Affairs since 2016.
Saoirse Brady’s interview on Activist Lawyer is available to listen to now https://open.spotify.com/episode/0jpU8zkgVlbClz4JROSJP1?si=b027888923264949 and across all major streaming platforms or via www.ActivistLawyer.com
Here, we speak to Brady to find out what activism means to her.
How important is activism?
S: Activism is essential to achieve real and meaningful social change. Activists are at the heart of every social movement; they drive momentum and continue to question the status quo. While very often, change can be very gradual, particularly when looking at key social issues, these small wins are ultimately what lead to success.
Can we use the law effectively as a tool for activism?
S: Public interest law can be a very powerful tool. Very often people only come into contact with the law when things go wrong in their life. We need to shift the perception of how law can be used and empower people to see it as a way of vindicating their rights.
In public interest cases, while a court may hand down a decision in the applicant’s favour, often that decision will not be implemented without a parallel advocacy campaign to ensure that change actually happens on the ground.
Tell us about a career milestone that will stay with you forever.
S: There are quite a few to choose from. One piece of work that I’m particularly proud of is the ‘No Child 2020’ initiative that the Children’s Rights Alliance ran in conjunction with the Irish Times. It shone a spotlight on child poverty from a rights-based perspective and highlighted the pragmatic solutions that could make a real difference in the everyday lives of children. This child poverty work was some of the most impactful campaigning work that I’ve been involved in and, while there is still a very long way to go to eradicate child poverty, particularly given the current situation, the Alliance’s campaign alongside members, helped foster a wider understanding of the causes of child poverty, who is particularly impacted and what can be done to break that cycle.
Does your current practice specialise in campaigning/representing clients in a specific area, and if so, how did you get involved in this area?
S: IPRT, is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of people in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy. We believe that imprisonment should only ever be a sanction of last resort and that an individual’s deprivation of liberty is the punishment, and their other human rights must be upheld while they are in custody.
I was inspired to join IPRT knowing that it is a well-respected, dynamic organisation that punches well above its weight. A lot of my previous work involved working with different marginalised communities, very often the same people who may end up in the criminal justice system. I believe that by tackling the root causes of poverty, deprivation, educational disadvantage, discrimination and other social determinants, we can ensure that fewer people enter our prison system and instead can avail of the support that they need to overcome the adversities they face.
What is the most important change to the law that you feel needs to be addressed now?
S: Currently there is so much potential to see meaningful change in the area of penal reform. The recently published Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, intended to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), represents a historic opportunity to strengthen the culture of human rights within Irish detention facilities and put in place safeguards to ensure that some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society are protected.
The highest standards of oversight should apply to any institution where people are deprived of their liberty, be it a hospital, psychiatric institution, or prison, and these must be rigorously observed. As history has shown in Ireland, the need for robust systems of accountability is even more critical behind closed doors. and in all other places where people are deprived of their liberty.
The IPRT believes that the State should ratify OPCAT immediately while the draft legislation passes through the Houses of the Oireachtas as this would send a clear signal of Ireland’s commitment to OPCAT and preventing torture in places of detention and help ensure the current momentum is not lost.
You can find the IPRT’s submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice here.
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