Ireland Falling Down on Obligations to Tackle Racial Discrimination UN Told in New Report

Ireland’s Rights Record on Combatting Racial Discrimination Under International Scrutiny

The State is failing to sufficiently tackle racism and discrimination and to live up to its international human rights obligations in combatting racial discrimination, a new report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) to the UN sets out today.

The comprehensive report assesses Ireland’s performance since 2011 on combatting racial discrimination, making over 150 recommendations for State action. The report is provided to UN experts to inform their questioning of Ireland in Geneva on December 2-3 on how the State is meeting its obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD).

As Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) accredited by the UN, the Commission holds a formal role in the monitoring of Ireland’s human rights obligations. The Commission is calling for leadership across the political and public institutions of the State in proactively combatting racial discrimination and tackling issues that fuel its growth.

The Commission sets out that the country has progressed as a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-national society. There has been considerable positive legal, policy and institutional developments, including the recognition of Traveller ethnicity, however there remain significant issues of concern.

Commission Member Salome Mbugua will appear in Geneva on December 2 before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to present the Commission’s findings and recommendations orally ahead of Ireland’s detailed examination.

Commission Member Salome Mbugua stated today:

“Ireland is a diverse, multi-ethnic and multinational society, and in this country no-one should be subjected to racial discrimination.

“Sustained leadership from political and public institutions is required to effectively combat racial discrimination, and to ensure an inclusive society.

“This report to the UN sets out the Commission’s independent evaluation of where the State has fallen down on its human rights obligations, and sets out where progress needs to be made in specific actions to combat racial discrimination.

“Our commitment to human rights and equality cannot be passive, it cannot be taken for granted, it must be earned through action. State leadership is required to ensure that people have their rights guaranteed, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin.”

The Commission highlights significant issues of concern within the detailed report and makes recommendations:

On Hate Speech and Hate Crime

  • Current legislation, the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act (1989) is inadequate to effectively address hate speech. This law needs modernisation and reform.
  • The State should develop a comprehensive regulatory framework to combat hate speech online. Compliance should be enforced by an independent statutory body and promoted by effective and proportionate sanctions. Media codes must also be more responsive in this regard.
  • Reliance on judicial discretion in sentencing for hate motivated offences limits the justice system’s ability to deal with hate crime.

On Discrimination Targeted Against Specific Groups

  • Public services are not yet sufficiently responsive to the needs of minority communities. This includes the area of criminal justice and policing, in the health sector and across education.
  • There is a growing evidence base regarding the cumulative discrimination and racism experienced by people of African descent, and particularly women of African descent. Public awareness raising and education measures to address discrimination and prejudice are required from the State.
  • Persistent systemic institutional racism against Travellers, and the continued and widespread prevalence of discriminatory attitudes towards Travellers remains one of the most significant areas where the State is failing to meet its obligations.
  • Labour market discrimination in Ireland is a consistent issue. It demonstrates troubling attitudes to particular groups in society including Travellers, Roma, and people of African descent who face experience significant barriers to accessing employment.

On International Protection and Human Trafficking

  • The policy of direct provision and dispersal does not protect the rights of international protection applicants. The State should move away from contracting out its international human rights obligations towards international protection applicants represented by the for-profit mode of Direct Provision.
  • Reforms set out in the 2015 McMahon Report need to be pushed forward. In the long term the Commission recommends the complete phasing out of direct provision.
  • The State needs to act to amend retrogressive measures on family reunification introduced in the International Protection Act 2015.
  • The State has yet to adequately recognise the seriousness of human trafficking as a human rights violation in Ireland, with chronic deficiencies remaining in the victim identification process.


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

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Notes to editor:

Read the full text of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s submission to the UN Committee: Ireland and the convention on the elimination of racial discrimination

Ireland and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – Factsheets and resources 

Ireland’s UN examination detail

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) will present this report to the UN in Geneva ahead of Ireland’s formal questioning which takes place on December 2-3.

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.