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Access to Justice

Trócaire’s Power Up campaign protects human rights workers

By Trish Groves, Campaigns Officer

“On 24 March 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass in the chapel of Divine Providence Hospital in San Salvador. His murder was a reprisal for his unflinching defence of human rights and of the rights of the poor in El Salvador.” 

This quote taken from ‘The Search for Justice’, a book detailing the history of Trócaire, continues to reflect the dangers facing individuals, groups and organisations working for justice in the developing world in 2013. 

Trocaire Power Up Lent campaign

Left: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the Trócaire 40th anniversary conference in March. Right: campaigners lend their support to the Power Up campaign

Every day, people around the world face death threats, intimidation and assassination for their work defending the poor and vulnerable in their communities.

To highlight these dangers, Trócaire launched its ‘Power Up’ campaign for Lent 2013, calling for greater protection for community leaders and activists. Campaigners around the country immediately answered the call to action and either wrote letters or took our online e-action.

Within days of the launch in February, hundreds of people had written to their local TDs, who in turn took action in the Dáil, tabling Parliamentary Questions and writing to Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, asking him to use his influence to protect those under threat.

The Tánaiste was quick to respond: “I welcome the focus of this year’s Trócaire Lenten Campaign on the rights of citizens and community organisations to participate in and influence decisions that affect their lives”, he wrote to the TDs who had contacted him.

The Tánaiste confirmed that Ireland will take the lead in the nine countries in which Irish Aid operates, both on a funding and a diplomatic level, to ensure that groups in those countries are able to work for their rights without threat of intimidation. 

“Ireland’s partnerships in these countries are founded on respect for human rights, and we will continue to emphasise in our dialogue with partner governments that it is essential to ensure the role of civil society organisations is enhanced,” he said.

The Tánaiste again confirmed his support for Trócaire’s campaign when he addressed Trócaire’s 40th Anniversary conference on 21 March.

But these are just the first steps in the campaign, and it’s important that people here in Ireland continue to add their voices to our call to protect people at risk overseas. If you haven’t signed our online petition, you can still do so, adding your voice to calls to protect people who risk their lives to help others. 

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