Creating universal health care in Ireland: A legal context

Manfred Lau, Charles Larkin, Michael Harty, Shaen Corbet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we establish a working definition of, and develop a legal rationale for, the insertion of a constitutional Right to Health (RTH) protection in the Constitution of Ireland. We propose that a legal framework exists for the judicial enforcement of a right to health in Ireland, as based on parallels drawn between Irish case law and that of RSA, a comparable common law constitutional democracy with a developed jurisprudential approach to its constitutional RTH. When modelled after precedential international provisions, this right strengthens and defends health policy goals (such as universal health care) through a common-law system of governmental accountability. Additionally, national rights to health have observable correlations with improved public health, and it stimulates institutional initiatives. The 1937 Constitution of Ireland includes several personal, social, and economic rights, and a RTH would complement the existing right to primary education as a socio-economic right. We note these considerations were discussed during the legislative proposal made in the 32nd Dáil for a constitutional RTH, which emerged in response to Ireland's ongoing efforts toward health policy reform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-785
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number6
Early online date20 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


  • Constitutional change
  • Ireland
  • The right to health
  • Universal health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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