Human Rights and Equality Issues Facing Older Persons in Ireland

The contribution of older persons in providing key supports to their extended family and communities, such as financial assistance, childcare and volunteering, evidenced by the 2017 Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) has been highlighted by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“The Commission”) in its submission to the Citizens’ Assembly on the human rights and equality issues facing older persons.

The Commission makes the submission in its function as the national human rights institution and national equality body for Ireland, to contribute to the Citizens’ Assembly consideration of how we respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population. Census 2016 figures indicate the continued rise in the average age of the Irish population, with the number of those aged over 65 having increased by 19%  since 2011.

Age is an equality ground under Irish law, which means that age-related discrimination is prohibited in the context of employment, and in accessing goods and services. However, in its submission the Commission makes clear that there persists significant human rights and equality issues facing older persons in Ireland.

Pension Access Inequality: Inequality of access to State pensions is raised as a prime concern with qualifying criteria for access to the State Pension, namely the averaging system, payment bands and the pensionable age, cited as disadvantaging those such as returning emigrants and giving rise to significant gender inequality, which today sees Ireland’s gender pensions gap at 38%.

The Commission notes recent research that women are over-represented in precarious and part time work, and less likely to have occupational or private pensions than men. Due to the increased likelihood of career interruptions, the proportion of women who are in receipt of the State (Contributory) Pension is significantly lower.

The Commission particularly highlights the Homemaker Scheme, which benefits women who may have had career interruptions, but only covers those who took career breaks after the scheme’s introduction (in 1994). The Commission calls for the scheme to be applied retrospectively by the State to ensure equitable access to the Contributory State Pension.

Retirement Age: With the age at which the State Pension is paid increasing, the Commission has expressed its concern that the law does not adequately protect workers from compulsory retirement at an age before they are entitled to receive a State pension.

Pension Effectiveness Reduced: The Commission outlines that the effectiveness of the State pension has been reduced, detailing a history of cuts in payments including fuel, telephone and electricity allowances.

Rising Costs of Long Term Care: The Commission notes research in its submission, that in relation to spending on long term care, while many European countries have increased spending, Ireland has slowed or even cut back on spending and coverage in response to the rising cost of care.

Deprivation of Liberty in Care: Legislative clarity is required related to the deprivation of liberty in nursing homes and other care and residential accommodation. This relates to who holds statutory responsibility for such decisions, and the necessary appeals process.

Reporting of Abuse: The Commission also recommends that the Government should bring forward research to establish the reasons for significantly lower reported rates of elder abuse in Ireland compared with other developed countries, with concerns cited of potential under-reporting.

The Commission has welcomed efforts to implement the National Positive Ageing Strategy and the establishment of the National Positive Ageing Forum, given that participation is a core value of the human rights and equality framework. It suggests that the members of the forum should be empowered to continuously add to the Strategy to ensure it is a living document.

In outlining to the Citizens’ Assembly, the existing Irish and international human rights and equality legal frameworks, within which discussions of the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population should be framed, the Commission also reiterates the Public Sector Duty which requires all public bodies to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and treatment, and protect human rights in their functions.

Emily Logan Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“The recent census has shown an increase in the average age of the population, but the more gradual pace of this demographic change in Ireland provides us with a unique space and opportunity to develop innovative ageing strategies.

“The evidence is clear that older people continue to make a valuable contribution to society, characterised by active citizenship and intergenerational solidarity, the challenge is one of ensuring respect for their human rights and equality of treatment in Ireland.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

The full submission made by the Commission is available at the following link:

Submission to the Citizens’ Assembly in its consideration of ‘How we respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population’.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body 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 Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission, i.e. to ensure that:

  • there is respect for, and protection of, everyone’s human rights;
  • there is respect for the dignity and worth of each person;
  • a person’s ability to achieve their potential is not limited by prejudice, discrimination, or neglect;
  • everyone has a fair and equal opportunity to take part in the economic, political, social or cultural life of the State; and
  • people respect each other, respect equality and human rights, and understand the value of diversity within society

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.





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