UN Conclusions: Ireland Needs to Do More to Tackle Racism

UN Committee Identifies Priority Matters for State Action on Eliminating Racism

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has welcomed the publication today of the UN’s detailed recommendations on the action Ireland needs to take to meet its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Ireland was examined by UN experts earlier this month in Geneva, and the “concluding observations” offer a roadmap of the actions now required.

The Commission, as Ireland’s national human rights and equality institution, submitted an independent report to the UN Committee in October to inform the expert UN Committee’s assessment of Ireland. The Commission, led by Commission Members Salome Mbugua and Tony Geoghegan, also travelled to Geneva in December to participate, with the UN Committee on its independent monitoring of the State.

The UN recommendations offer a clear approach to steps the State should take to combat racial discrimination recommending legislative, institutional and policy changes. The Commission particularly welcomes the UN’s focus on tackling racial discrimination across areas of housing, education, healthcare provision and the labour market.

The Commission also welcomed the UN’s call for a significant review and renewal of Ireland’s equality legislation, which protects against discrimination around employment and in accessing goods and services.

Commission Member Salome Mbugua commented today:

“The Commission welcomes today’s publication of the UN findings on Ireland’s progress in tackling racism. While recent years have seen some welcome progress for human rights and equality in Ireland, we have also seen the emergence of new human rights challenges, including an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.

“The State must step up and show leadership across its political and public institutions to proactively combat racial discrimination and tackling issues which can fuel its growth.

“We need as a society to ensure that in our communities and country racism has no safe harbour, no resting place.”

Several crucial recommendations made by the Commission in its report to the UN were reflected in today’s concluding observations, these included:

On Hate Speech and Hate Crime, the UN Committee expressed its concern about the “increasing incidence of racist hate speech against Travellers, Roma, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants” and echoed the Commission’s recommendation for the State to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework to combat hate speech online, including measures to encourage reporting of racist hate crime.

The UN also noted particularly that the mandate of a new Electoral Commission should include “provisions on the prohibition of racist hate speech in the context of elections.”

On Discrimination Targeted against Specific Groups – the UN Committee set out its concerns about cumulative discrimination and racism experienced by people of African descent, and particularly women of African descent.

The UN experts also set out their concern “about the challenges faced by Travellers and Roma in enjoying their economic, social and cultural rights” calling for action in employment, education, healthcare and the provision of appropriate accommodation.

On International Protection and Human Trafficking- the UN Committee has highlighted their concern at “the continuous failure of the State party to provide adequate accommodation for asylum seekers”.

The UN document states that the State should develop an alternative reception model and take concrete steps to phase out the Direct Provision system. The State should take actions in the meantime to improve living conditions, halt the use of emergency accommodation, and regulate and inspect such centres.

The UN also focused on the need to combat human trafficking through improvements to the victim identification and referral mechanism, a point which has been the focus of the Commission’s legal work over several years.

On the legal Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty – public bodies are called on to provide proper human rights and equality training for officials. Policing and law enforcement officials warranted specific note from the UN in this regard.

In line with its statutory functions, the Commission will now continue to monitor and report on the State’s progress.




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Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

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Editor’s Note:

The UN Concluding Observations on Ireland and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination are available to download from the Commission website at:


Ireland’s record under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) was examined at a hearing in the UN in Geneva on the 2nd and 3rd December 2019. This is the third time that Ireland has gone before the Committee, a group of international and independent experts tasked with examining states’ compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The full independent report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission submitted to UNCERD is available at: https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2019/11/Ireland-and-the-Convention-on-the-Elimination-of-Racial-Discrimination-2019.pdf


The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

This UN Convention is an international human rights treaty. Ireland ratified CERD in 2000 and was last examined on its implementation in 2011.

By signing and ratifying State parties ‘condemn racial discrimination’ and commit ‘to the elimination of racial discrimination in all its forms.’ States promise to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. As of November 2019 there were 181 State Parties globally to the CERD.


Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

The Commission has been granted “A” status as a national human rights institution (NHRI) by the UN. This international recognition underlines the Commission’s domestic and international standing and institutional independence. Although there are three levels of accreditation, only those awarded an “A” status are fully compliant with the Paris Principles and, as a result, are accorded voting, speaking and seating rights at UN human rights treaty bodies.

As the national human rights institution, the Commission’s monitoring of Ireland’s human rights, and recommendations, inform the expert UN Committee’s assessment and questioning of how Ireland is meeting its obligations under the Convention.

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