Republic of Ireland
Head of state: Michael D. Higgins
Head of government: Enda Kenny

Abortion legislation and guidance failed to comply with Ireland's human rights obligations. Transgender individuals faced barriers to legal gender recognition. Responses to victims of past institutional abuse fell below adequate standards of truth, justice and reparations.

Sexual and reproductive rights

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (the Act) was enacted in 2013 to respond to the 2010 European Court of Human Rights decision in A, B and C v. Ireland, with the stated aim of ensuring pregnant women's or girls' access to abortion when there is a "real and substantial risk" to their life as permitted under the Constitution. Neither the Act nor related guidance published in September 2014 provided sufficient assistance to medical professionals in assessing when a pregnancy posed such a risk to life, or adequately protected the rights of the pregnant woman or girl. In December, the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers closed its examination of the implementation of the A, B and C v. Ireland decision.[1]

The Act recriminalized abortion in all other circumstances, with a potential penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.

In July, the UN Human Rights Committee criticized the criminalization of abortion, and the Act's requirements of excessive scrutiny of pregnant and suicidal women or girls which could lead to further mental distress. The Committee called on Ireland to revise its laws, including its Constitution, to provide for access to abortion in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the woman or girl, and fatal foetal impairment.


Transgender people

In December the government published a bill proposing legislative provision for legal gender recognition.[2] The bill's proposals fell short of human rights standards, including by requiring transgender individuals to dissolve their marriages or civil partnerships before applying for legal gender recognition.[3]

People with disabilities

Independent registration and inspections of residential care centres for people with disabilities began in November 2013. In December 2014, a current affairs television programme revealed secretly recorded evidence of abusive treatment, and denial of basic rights and autonomy, of three people in one centre, raising wider concerns about other centres.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

There were continuing delays in the determination of individuals' asylum or other protection needs, with many people remaining for years in "direct provision" accommodation unsuitable for long-stay residence, especially for families, children and victims of torture.

Violence against women and children

In February 2013, the government published a report purporting to clarify the state's interaction with the religious-run "Magdalene Laundries". The report and the ex gratia compensation scheme announced thereafter fell below adequate standards of truth, justice and reparations.[4]

In June, following international outcry at allegations of past abuses of women and children in so-called "mother and baby homes", operated by religious orders with state funding between the 1920s and 1990s, the government committed to establishing an independent Commission of Investigation.[5]

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In July legislation was enacted creating the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as the new National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the result of a merger between the Irish Human Rights Commission (the former NHRI) and Ireland's equality body. The legislation contained two definitions of human rights, limiting the new NHRI's enforcement and powers to a narrow definition which excluded the majority of economic, social and cultural rights.

The government-appointed Constitutional Convention recommended several amendments to the Constitution, including providing for equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples and removing the offence of blasphemy; the government accepted both recommendations and committed to putting them to referendum in 2015. In February, the Convention recommended constitutional incorporation of economic, social and cultural rights.

Ireland ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure in September.

In December, the government requested that the European Court of Human Rights review its 1978 judgment in Ireland v. United Kingdom, a landmark case concerning the torture and ill-treatment of 14 Irish nationals held by UK authorities under internment powers in Northern Ireland during 1971-72 (see UK entry).[6]

1. Ireland: Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Pre-sessional working group (EUR 29/003/2014)

2. The state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014)

3. The state decides who I am: Lack of legal gender recognition for transgender people in Europe (EUR 01/001/2014) Ireland: Transgender people 'short-changed' by new bill (Press release)

4. Ireland: Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee (EUR 29/001/2014)

5. Ireland: 'Tuam babies' mass grave allegations must spark urgent investigation (Press release)

6. Ireland: Decision to reopen "Hooded Men" court case triumph of justice after four decades of waiting (Press release)

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