Annual Report: Ireland 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Ireland 2010

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Head of state Mary McAleese
Head of government Brian Cowen
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 4.5 million
Life expectancy 79.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 6/6 per 1,000

New criminal law provisions further curtailed the right to silence by allowing adverse inferences to be drawn from a person's silence during police questioning. Asylum procedures continued to be prolonged, and failed sufficiently to take children's needs into consideration. Two reports were published on the abuse of thousands of children over decades by members of the Catholic clergy. The abuse was covered up by church and state authorities. There was a shortfall in mental health services. The treatment of rape survivors by the criminal justice system gave rise to concern. The human rights of trafficking victims were not adequately protected.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, enacted in July, extended the remit of the jury-less Special Criminal Court to certain "organized crime" offences. Provisions of the new law also allowed adverse inferences to be drawn from a person's silence during police questioning, thereby undermining the right not to be compelled to testify against oneself. The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) complained that parliament (Oireachtas) and the public had been allowed insufficient time to consider the new law.

In July, the IHRC said that the 32 per cent cut in its 2009 funding seriously hampered its statutory functions. It recommended that it should be made answerable to parliament, not to a government department.

The Civil Partnership Bill 2009, published in June, proposed to permit same-sex couples, opposite-sex couples and cohabiting companions to register civil partnerships. The Bill recognized a number of other rights and obligations previously afforded only married couples. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups criticized it for not giving same-sex couples a right to civil marriage or addressing the unsatisfactory legal situation of children of same-sex couples.

Police and security forces

In April the IHRC, while welcoming positive initiatives underway within the police (An Garda Síochána) to make the service more human rights compliant, expressed concern at the slow pace of reform in key areas. It set out a range of recommendations on further reforms needed for the service to become more transparent and accountable. It also called for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which deals with complaints against the police, to be sufficiently resourced to carry out its functions effectively.

Prison conditions

In October, the IHRC informed the UN Human Rights Committee that physical conditions in many prisons were unacceptable, sometimes amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment, and that in the previous 12 months overcrowding had reportedly reached severe levels, increasing the potential for violence among prisoners.

Counter-terror and security

The government cabinet committee established in 2008 to review and strengthen legislation dealing with the search and inspection of suspected rendition flights did not publish legislative proposals.

Guantánamo Bay detainees

In September, the government announced that it had accepted two former detainees from the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for residence in Ireland.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

There remained concern at the length of asylum proceedings, which in some cases took three to five years. Legislation proposed in 2008 to introduce a single procedure for determining refugee status as well as other forms of protection was not enacted.