Human rights in Ireland
Human rights in Ireland are subject to scrutiny at home and abroad. We engage with Civil Society Organisations in Ireland on human rights issues and on the reporting requirements which Ireland is subject to internationally.
It is the duty of all states to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. Under these international obligations, governments are primarily responsible both for creating the conditions in which rights can be realised and for ensuring that rights are not violated.
Ireland is committed to having human rights both at the heart of both our national and foreign policy. The 1937 Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, predates both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and contains strong emphasis on fundamental rights, which are in effect, human rights principles by a different name.
Inter-Departmental Committee on Human Rights
In The Global Island: Ireland's Foreign Policy for a Changing World (January 2015), the Government made a commitment to improve the coherence of the promotion and protection of human rights in Ireland's Foreign Policy, including through the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Committee on Human Rights. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of State and its responsibilities include assisting progress towards the ratification by Ireland of key international human rights treaties and ensuring timely reporting to human rights monitoring bodies.
See Terms of Reference of the Inter-Departmental Committee.
Business and Human Rights
National Plan on Business and Human Rights
The Irish Government decided on 24 June 2014 that Ireland would develop a national plan for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is leading the development of the plan. The Department published a Working Outline of Ireland’s National Plan on Human Rights on 10 December 2015. Following consultation on the Working Outline, the Human Rights Unit is drafting Ireland’s National Plan on Business and Human Rights.
We engage with NGOs on human rights issues through the:
DFAT NGO Standing Committee
This DFAT NGO Standing Committee on Human Rights was established in 1997 to provide a framework for a regular exchange of views between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and representatives of the NGO community, as well as civil society more generally. It comprises human rights experts, academics, NGO representatives and representatives of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other governmental departments as required. The Committee meets approximately four times a year to discuss international matters of concern, including Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law and Ireland’s foreign policy positions on international human rights issues of concern.
See the minutes of the meetings of the Committee.
DFAT NGO Forum on Human Rights
The DFAT NGO Forum on Human Rights provides a platform for interested NGOs and members of civil society in Ireland to gather, together with representatives of DFAT, and exchange views on international human rights priorities of mutual concern. A wide range of topics have been discussed at the Forum since its inception in 1998. The Fifteenth Forum on was held on Friday, 19 February, 2016. The theme of this Forum was The United Nations Human Rights Council: Ten Years On. Speakers at the event included representatives of the UN and EU, academics, public officials, and civil society representatives.
Ireland and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The establishment of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was one of the key innovations of the Human Rights Council (HRC). It is unique insofar as it is the only international peer review mechanism for the human rights records of all UN Member States. The review of each country take places during a four and a half to five year cycle and at one of the sessions of the UPR Working Group.
The process involves the preparation of a National Report by the State under Review and submission to the UN of reports by civil society organisations; an interactive dialogue during which other States are given an opportunity to ask questions and make recommendations on human rights issues; and the adoption by the HRC of the report of the Working Group which includes the State’s position on the recommendations made.
Ireland's first review took place on 6 October 2011. In March 2014 Ireland published a voluntary National Interim Report setting out progress achieved since the 1st review while the 2nd National Report was transmitted to the UN on 3 February 2016. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D., led the Irish delegation at the second review on 11 May, 2016. Ireland’s review during the third cycle of the UPR will take place in April-May 2021.
Ireland is also an active participant in the reviews of other countries and supports the participation of civil society in the UPR process. Details of the interventions made by Ireland during the second cycle of the UPR are available here.
Reporting on International Conventions
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is responsible for facilitating the ratification of international human rights instruments. Ireland has ratified the core UN human rights treaties and a wide range of other international human rights instruments.
For each UN Covenant or Convention, States Parties are obliged to submit periodic reports to specialised committees of the UN, known as the human rights treaty monitoring bodies, on the progress made in implementing the treaty domestically. The Human Rights Unit of DFAT coordinates Irish reporting in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).The Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs coordinate the responses in relation to the other treaties.
These national reports are then published by the relevant treaty monitoring body and interested NGOs are invited to submit their observations. Subsequent to this, the treaty monitoring body presents a list of issues on which it requests further information from the State. The treaty monitoring body then publishes its Concluding Observations after a hearing is conducted with a national delegation appearing before it to respond to further questions. Such hearings normally take place in Geneva.
ICCPR: 4th Periodic Review 2014
Ireland’s fourth periodic review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights took place in Geneva on the 14th and 15th of July 2014. For the submission by Ireland of follow-up material to the Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee please see the following link:
- Follow up material to the Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the Fourth Periodic of Ireland under the ICCPR
ICESCR: 3rd Periodic Review 2015
Ireland was reviewed under ICESCR in Geneva on the 8 and 9 of June, 2015. For Ireland’s reply to the list of issues identified by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Statement from Minister of State Seán Sherlock, who led the Irish delegation in Geneva, and for supplementary information provided to the Committee by Ireland after the review in Geneva please see the following links:
- Reply of Ireland to the List of Issues in relation to its third periodic report under ICESCR
- Statement from Minister Sherlock, head of the Irish delegation for the review under ICESCR
- Follow up response of supplementary answers from Ireland to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights