Human Rights and Equality Commission Annual Report Launched

  • Third Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas highlights landmark legal interventions.
  • 1,890 concerns raised by public, a 6% rise on previous year & topped by disability discrimination issues.
  • Engagement with Oireachtas on key legislative and policy areas, new research published.
  • Formal reporting on Ireland’s international obligations at the United Nations.
  • Focus on Brexit impacts through the Joint Committee with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
  • Public bodies’ legal obligations on human rights and equality a key focus of national seminars and grant support.

 25 June 2018 – The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today launched its Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The third report of the Commission’s work as the independent national human rights and equality body, directly accountable to the Oireachtas, outlines the Commission’s increased activity on its statutory functions.

In launching the report, Chief Commissioner Emily Logan welcomed recent positive progress on human rights and equality issues, but warned that significant areas of concern remain. The Chief Commissioner highlighted specifically the issue of housing, and the increased level and types of discrimination being experienced by certain groups living in Ireland.

Speaking on the Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas, Chief Commissioner Emily Logan stated:

“Progress has been made on human rights and equality issues, including State recognition of Traveller ethnicity; in healthcare, following the referendum to repeal the Eighth amendment; and Ireland’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, rights must not only be recognised, but must also be vindicated through the State’s services and our laws.

 “The Commission is seeing significant numbers of people contacting us directly about experiencing discrimination related to their disability, their housing status, their gender and their race, illustrating a clear need for a sustained focus on actions to eliminate discrimination in Ireland.

 “The Commission will continue to examine what practical actions are being taken to vindicate people’s human rights and equality of treatment, in particular regarding the forthcoming legislation governing a framework for abortion services, and legislation giving effect to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

 

The Annual Report highlights include:

The Commission’s active role in the superior courts, as amicus curiae (friend of the court). Permission to appear in this role was granted in 7 strategic cases in 2017, building on existing amicus roles. The outcome of this strategic litigation can have a broad impact and benefit to others.

The amicus cases focus on human rights and equality issues, with significant cases including:

  • The landmark Supreme Court order on the constitutional right of people in direct provision to seek employment (NHV Case) clarifying the right of individuals to seek employment. The significant judgment of the Supreme Court clarified the entitlement of non-citizens to rely on the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Legislation is now being brought forward by Government in response.
  • The rights of persons involuntarily detained in mental health hospitals to challenge their ongoing detention at regular intervals where their circumstances may have changed (AB Case). The relevant part of the legislation has been deemed unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal.
  • The rights of people to private and family lives in decisions on whether to renew or vary their visa status (Balchand and Luximon cases). The Supreme Court has ruled that the Minister has a duty to consider the families’ right to private and family life.

The Commission also granted legal advice or legal representation to 72 people in a range of cases relating to discrimination and human rights issues.

1,890 public concerns raised directly to the Commission about discrimination

  • The top 3 public concerns related to the Equal Status Acts, focused on discrimination on the grounds of disability (27%), receipt of housing assistance (23%) and race (17%)
  • The top 3 public concerns related to the Employment Equality Acts focused on discrimination in employment on the grounds of disability (31%), race (19%) and the gender ground (18%).

Significant research brought forward building evidence-based policy and decision-making on key human rights and equality issues

New “Who Experiences Discrimination in Ireland” research published with the ESRI uncovered that 1 in 8 Irish people report experience of discrimination. This was the inaugural publication in a 2-year research programme with the ESRI and the focus of a discrimination awareness campaign. Significant research is also underway with the Irish Research Council (IRC) to analyse online racist hate speech in an Irish context.

 Direct engagement on domestic law and policy relating to human rights and equality

Policy statement published on the use of emergency accommodation for homeless families, following engagement with people housed in family hubs.  Recommendations made for changes to regulations governing use of emergency accommodation for families.

The Commission published a policy position, and appeared before the Oireachtas Committee recommending the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, and the development of a regulatory framework for access to abortion services.  Policy recommendations included the development of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education programme, and detailed recommendations on conscientious objection.

The Commission continued to keep under review the implementation of the International Protection Act 2015, which came into force in January 2017.  The Commission is concerned in particular about policies and law relating to family reunification and ongoing risks for unaccompanied migrant children.

Reporting on Ireland’s international obligations

Commission reported independently in Geneva to two UN Treaty Bodies on Ireland’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the UN Convention against Torture.

Significant progress on the legal duty of public bodies to fulfil their obligation to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and protect human rights, with two national seminars, resources produced, and implementation projects grant funded.

Working on Brexit as the Joint Committee with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission as part of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement to outline the clear need that there be no diminution of rights for people living in Northern Ireland due to the UK Withdrawal from the EU.

ENDS/

 

 For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

 

Notes to editor:

 The full report is available to download here.

 Tá an leagan Gaeilge den tuarascáil bhliantúil ar fail anseo.

  

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.

Article 28 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Act 2014 provides for the Commission to prepare an annual report to include information on the performance of the functions of the Commission during the period to which the report relates, and to lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

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