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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



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.

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.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

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.

December 14, 2015 • Press Release

Women from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Had almost 25,000 Abortions in England and Wales over the Last Five Years

New data shows that almost 25,000 women from across Ireland, north and south, travelled to have abortions in England and Wales – an average of close to 100 terminations every week over the past five years.

August 6, 2015 • Press Release

4,000 women and girls abandoned by the Irish State every year

Today in Dublin, Amnesty International activists from around the world staged a protest against Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws outside the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister). Delegates brought 80 suitcases to signify the number of Irish women and girls who travel abroad each and every week to access a safe and legal abortion.

July 7, 2015 • Press Release

Two-Thirds Majority in Ireland Want Abortion Decriminalized

The Irish government is under growing pressure to reform its anti-abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the world, Amnesty International said today as it published results of an opinion poll on public attitudes to abortion in Ireland.

June 22, 2015 • Press Release

Ireland: Government must accept UN call for constitutional referendum on abortion

The Irish government must accept that the 1983 Eighth Amendment of Ireland's Constitution is causing serious human rights violations, Amnesty International said today following the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ criticism of the state’s law on abortion.

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.

May 23, 2015 • Press Release

Amnesty International Welcomes Ireland’s Historic Decision to Say ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality

Today Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce full civil marriage equality for all its people, regardless of their sexual orientation, by way of a universal ballot.