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 legal abortion. Legislation criminalizing female genital mutilation was enacted.
In August, a new system for the investigation of serious complaints from prisoners by external investigators with an appeal to the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, was announced. The government promised its eventual extension to other less serious complaints. However, this reform remained short of the independent complaints mechanism recommended by the UN Committee against Torture in 2011.
A report by the Inspector of Prisons on St Patrick's Institution for Young Offenders, published in October, described ill-treatment, intimidation and harsh punishment of the young men and boys detained there. It also identified inadequate provision of education and health care. Following the report, the government announced reforms within the facility – including improved training for prison officers – and the investigation of some staff. Earlier in the year, the placement of 16-year-olds in St Patrick's ended, although there remained concerns that 17-year-olds would continue to be placed there until a new children's detention facility becomes available in 2014.
Right to health
The government began a review of conformity with international human rights standards of the 2001 Mental Health Act. The Act primarily governs the circumstances in which a person may be involuntarily admitted to, detained and treated in a hospital.
In October, a 31-year-old woman died in hospital of septicaemia in circumstances where it was alleged that she was denied a potentially life-saving abortion. Her case highlighted the lack of clarity in legislation and regulations regarding women's right to access abortion where their life is at risk.
Violence against women and girls
At the end of the year, the government had still not established an independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment of women and girls placed in religious-run institutions, known as the Magdalene Laundries, as recommended by the UN Committee against Torture. An inter-departmental committee established by the government in 2011 to "clarify any State interaction with the Magdalene Laundries" had also not issued its report.
In April, the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act was enacted, criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM). It also criminalized the removal of a girl from the country to undergo FGM, and provides protection for victims during legal proceedings.
Police and security forces
In October, the Oireachtas (parliament) approved an extension to the Smithwick Tribunal by a further nine months to end-July 2013. The Tribunal was examining allegations that members of An Garda Síochána (the police) colluded in the 1989 Provisional Irish Republican Army killing of two Royal Ulster Constabulary police officers in Northern Ireland.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in March.
A government-appointed Constitutional Convention was established in July to examine elements of the Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann), including in the areas of marriage equality for same-sex couples, women's equality and blasphemy. The Convention did not expressly include an examination of the Constitution's incorporation of human rights, and of economic, social and cultural rights.
In November, the Constitution was amended to provide some improved protections for children's rights.
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