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

Access to and information about abortion remained severely restricted and criminalized. Equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples was introduced. Legal gender recognition legislation was enacted.


In July the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) criticized Ireland's "highly restrictive legislation on abortion and its strict interpretation thereof", and its "criminalization of abortion, including in the cases of rape and incest and of risk to the health of a pregnant woman". It recommended that Ireland take all necessary steps, including a referendum on abortion, to revise its legislation on abortion. Concerns were raised at the impact on women and girls of the law on access to and information about abortion, and how the constitutional protection afforded to the foetus also impacted on maternity care.[1] Abortion is constitutionally permitted only when a woman's or girl's life is at "real and substantial risk", and carries a possible 14-year prison sentence in all other circumstances.


In November, Ireland signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

The CESCR expressed concern at the government's responses to domestic violence. It criticized the lack of a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the allegations of past abuses in the religious-run "Magdalene Laundries", and that survivors were not provided with adequate remedies.


In May, a popular referendum was passed ensuring constitutional provision for equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples. Legislation was enacted in October.

Legislation providing for legal gender recognition was enacted and came into force in September, substantially meeting human rights standards.

There were renewed concerns at the institutionalization of people with disabilities and the poor living conditions for people with disabilities in residential centres. Concerns were also raised at possible neglect and abuse in some centres.


The CESCR was critical of the limited statutory definition of human rights provided in respect of some of the functions of the Human Rights and Equality Commission.[2] It concluded that this limitation, together with the lack of recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in domestic law, are "major factors" preventing the Commission from exercising its mandate and applying the full range of rights. It recommended that the government review the 2014 legislation.

By the end of the year the government had still not responded to the February 2014 recommendation by the government-established Constitutional Convention that the Constitution be amended to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights. Several other Convention recommendations for constitutional reform in areas including equality for women and blasphemy remained outstanding.


In November, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture published the findings of its 2014 visit. The Committee noted improvements in the prison system, but expressed concern at interprisoner violence, continuing lack of in-cell sanitation in some prisons, conditions akin to solitary confinement as punishment, deficiencies in health care (including mental health care), and the placement of immigration detainees with remand and convicted prisoners. The Committee noted receiving some reports of ill-treatment by the police, and recommended improved health care services in police stations as a safeguard against ill-treatment.

There were concerns at delays by the government in ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and establishing the required National Preventive Mechanism.


In September, the government announced that it would accept up to 4,000 people in need of international protection, including both those requiring relocation from within the EU, and the 520 Syrian refugees then being resettled in Ireland directly from the Middle East.

Concerns remained about the poor living conditions in "direct provision" centres and the lengthy stay (around 51 months) by asylum-seekers. A report was issued in June by a working group established by the government to identify possible improvements to direct provision. The government established a task force in July to further consider whether and how to implement the group's recommendations.

Legislation providing for a single procedure to deal with both claims for refugee status and claims for other forms of protection was enacted in December.

[1] She is not a criminal – the impact of Ireland's abortion law (EUR 29/1597/2015)

[2] Ireland: Submission to the CESCR (EUR 29/1629/2015)

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