Ireland is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Ireland has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Ireland has ratified the Revised European Social Charter, and has authorized the European Committee of Social Rights to decide collective complaints against it. Its human rights policies and practices are also monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights, who identifies gaps in human rights protection, conducts country visits, engages in dialogue with States, and prepares thematic reports and advice.
Individuals and groups have submitted complaints of human rights violations committed by Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court held that the national school system failed to protect an individual from sexual abuse by a teacher and that the State did not offer an effective domestic remedy to address the matter. See ECtHR, O’Keeffe v. Ireland, no. 35810/09, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 28 January 2014. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Ireland.
As a State party to the Revised European Social Charter, Ireland must submit regular reports to the European Committee of Social Rights on its implementation of the Charter’s provisions. The Committee has also decided collective complaints against Ireland. For example, the Committee found that legislation prohibiting police associations from striking and from joining other employee unions violated the rights to organize and to collective bargaining. See ECSR, European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) v. Ireland, Complaint No. 83/2012, Admissibility and Merits, 2 December 2013.
Ireland is a party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- Revised European Social Charter
- COE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
- COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Ireland is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Ireland’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of five treaty bodies.
Ireland has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Ireland has also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict. Ireland has not ratified the CRC addressing the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Ireland has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Ireland has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis and describe the steps Ireland has taken to implement the treaty provisions.
Ireland has also ratified optional protocols and made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against the State alleging violations of the ICCPR, CEDAW, CAT, CERD, and CRC. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Ireland has accepted the inquiry procedures of the CAT, CRC and CEDAW.
In March 2001, Ireland extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, meaning any such mandate holders are welcome to conduct visits in Ireland. For example, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders went on a mission to Ireland in 2012 and published a visit report in 2013.
For more information on Ireland’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/IEIndex.aspx.
Last updated: February 2020