Ireland Human Rights

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.

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.

In November, the Ombudsman for Children found that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children received a lower standard of care than children in the mainstream care system, and that many resided in uninspected private hostels. She expressed concern that 419 unaccompanied children had gone missing from care between the end of 2000 and June 2009 and was critical of the response to such incidents. She also concluded that the asylum process did not take sufficient account of children's age or vulnerability.

Children's rights

In May, the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan report) outlined the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of over 30,000 children between 1936 and 2000 placed by the state in institutions operated by Catholic religious orders. It found that the Department of Education, health boards and religious orders failed to protect children or to investigate complaints. In July, the government gave commitments to implement the Commission's recommendations, including by providing reparation to abuse survivors and addressing serious gaps in current child protection and care systems.

A report by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation (Murphy report) into the handling of clerical child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin between 1975 and 2004 was published in November. It found that hundreds of abuse cases were covered up by the church and state authorities, including the police.

A referendum on the incorporation of children's rights in the Constitution was further delayed.

Right to health – mental health

There was a shortfall in mental health services, especially for vulnerable groups such as children and people with intellectual disabilities. In May, the Inspector of Mental Health Services described the 247 admissions of children to adult units in 2008 as "inexcusable, counter-therapeutic and almost purely custodial".

In April, the Mental Health Commission reported on care and treatment practices in two mental health inpatient facilities in Clonmel. It found a poor and unsafe physical environment, high levels of injuries to patients in uncertain circumstances, inappropriate medication and use of seclusion, an absence of basic levels of privacy, and restrictions on movement.

Women's rights

In December, a review by the Rape Crisis Network of the criminal justice system's response in rape cases found that just 30 per cent of cases reported to the police led to prosecutions. It observed that both the police and the prosecution service assessed the credibility of a rape report against a narrow stereotype, a factor in deterring survivors from reporting their ordeal. It also found that the most common reason given by victims for considering withdrawing complaints was poor treatment by the police.

Also in December the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held a hearing in a case concerning three women who complained that restrictions on obtaining an abortion in Ireland violated their human rights.

Trafficking in human beings

A report by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in April found that at least 102 and probably many more women and girls were trafficked into or through Ireland for sexual exploitation over a two-year period.

In June the government published a three-year national action plan to prevent and combat trafficking. Its proposal to continue housing survivors of trafficking in accommodation dedicated to asylum seekers gave rise to concern that they would be inadequately protected from the risk of further harm. Very few victims were granted a "reflection and recovery" period.

Ireland Newsroom

December 9, 2018 • Report

Oppressive, sexist policies galvanize bold fight for women’s rights in 2018

Women activists around the world have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights in 2018, Amnesty International said today as it launched its review on the state …

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

June 4, 2015 • Report

She is Not a Criminal: The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law

Pregnant women and girls risk putting their health and lives in danger if they remain in Ireland, Amnesty International said today in a report on the country’s abortion law.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

September 26, 2014 • Report

My Body My Rights

All over the world, people are coerced, criminalized and discriminated against, simply for making choices about their bodies and their lives. In the face of these continuing violations, Amnesty International launches MY BODY MY RIGHTS, a new global campaign to defend sexual and reproductive rights for all.

May 20, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Ireland 2013

Republic of Ireland Head of state Michael D. Higgins Head of government Enda Kenny Conditions in a young offender institution were heavily criticized. Calls were renewed to regulate access to …

March 26, 2011 • Report

Europe: Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention

Europe: Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention Available in PDF only.

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Ireland 2010

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 …

June 9, 2016 • Press Release

Groundbreaking UN decision rules Ireland’s ban on abortion violates human rights

The UN Human Rights Committee’s ground-breaking decision that Ireland’s law prohibiting and criminalizing abortion violated the human rights of a woman who had a diagnosis of fatal fetal impairment will advance women’s rights in Ireland and beyond, said Amnesty International today.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.