Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Annual Report 2018

  • Significant legal interventions across direct provision, disability rights and housing.
  • 1,711 concerns raised by public to the Commission – disability discrimination remains the highest area of contact seeing almost a third of all equality related concerns.
  • Housing set as a key focus over the next three years in line with new strategy 2019-2021 and key legal cases taken.
  • Disability Advisory Committee work underway in monitoring Ireland’s obligations under UN Treaty.
  • Commission secures Chair of European Network of National Human Rights Institutions.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today launched its Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The report marks significantly increased activity for the Commission during  its fourth full year of work as Ireland’s national human rights and equality body, directly accountable to the Oireachtas.

In launching the report, Chief Commissioner Emily Logan highlighted specifically the issue of housing, and the increased level and types of discrimination being experienced in Ireland.

In her speech launching the Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas, Chief Commissioner Emily Logan stated:

“The crises in direct provision and in housing lay bare just how much further we have to go to eliminate discrimination and violations of human rights in Ireland. They also show how much our state remains wedded to approaches that we know from experience simply do not work. 

Specifically, in relation to the Commission’s significant legal activity, Chief Commissioner Emily Logan stated:

“Our engagement with the Courts is a crucial means by which we can ensure that the human rights and equality consideration of legal cases are clearly articulated and brought to bear on court deliberations. We took on new applications for legal assistance across multiple grounds including age discrimination, disability, family status, housing assistance and membership of the Traveller Community.”

THE ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

LEGAL ACTIVITY

As amicus curiae (friend of the court) the Commission in 2018 sought liberty to intervene  in seven new sets of proceedings across a range of important human rights and equality questions and were granted liberty in all of them.

Significant cases included

  • On Direct Provision – legislation indefinitely barring people in Direct Provision from working was struck down as unconstitutional prompting the Governments adopted of EU legislation in this area (The NHV case).
  • On Reasonable Accommodation for people with disabilities – the case of Marie Daly, a Special Needs Assistant at the Nano Nagle School who suffered an accident, and after rehabilitation sought to return to work but was refused. Marie now sees her case before the Supreme Court.
  • On the circumstances under which people can be detained in care settings – key Court of Appeal rulings saw challenges to current practice and legisation in favour of personal choice and people’s right to liberty (the L Case and the AB Case).
  • Acting in the Court of Justice of the EU – The Commission was represented in Luxembourg in the case brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on a question of age discrimination related to entry to the Gardaí, which looked specifically at the authority of tribunals to disapply national law where inconsistent with EU law.

The Commission grants of legal advice or legal representation in new cases grew by 40% from the previous year seeing a range of cases taken up relating to discrimination and human rights issues.

Successful outcomes in legal representation cases during 2018 included:

  • A tenant successful in their challenge of their landlord in discrimination relation to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
  • A legal case for a family refused the opportunity to rent a property by an estate agent because they had children.
  • A case brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on a question of age discrimination related to entry to the Gardaí, which looked specifically at the authority of tribunals to disapply national law where inconsistent with EU law.
  • A legal case for a deaf man whose job interview offer was withdrawn when he sought the provision of an ISL interpreter.

1,711, public concerns were handled by the Commission about discrimination

  • The top three public concerns related to the Equal Status Acts, focused on discrimination on the grounds of disability (33% ) housing assistance (22%) and race (15%).
  • The top three public concerns under the Employment Equality Acts focused on discrimination in employment and job seeking on the grounds of disability (30%), gender (25%) and the race ground (16%).

Equality Reviews – In the first use of statutory powers under Section 32 of its founding legislation, the Commission invited six bodies to undertake equality reviews on specific aspects of their services.

NEW RESEARCH

New Research building evidence-based policy and decision-making on key human rights and equality issues

The Commission brought forward four new pieces of statistical research with the ESRI to provide a clear evidential base to ground the development of equality and human rights policy on:

  • Attitudes to Diversity in Ireland
  • Discrimination and inequality in housing in Ireland
  • Disability and Discrimination in Ireland
  • Ethnicity and Nationality in the Labour Market

On combatting online hate speech in an Irish context, significant new research from DCU was also published with the Irish Research Council (IRC)  analysing online racist hate speech and its reporting with an international event.

DISABILITY RIGHTS

The Commission set up a new Disability Advisory Committee  to support its work in monitoring Ireland’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee of eleven is made up of a large majority of people with disabilities.

BREXIT

Significant joint work with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on Brexit, as the Joint Committee under the Good Friday Agreement saw direct engagement in Brussels, London, Belfast and Dublin, and focused research published on the human rights and equality impacts of the UK Withdrawal and also on the Common Travel Area.

The Joint Committee has outlined to the EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and UK and Irish Governments the clear need that there be no diminution of rights for people living in Northern Ireland due to the UK Withdrawal from the EU.

UN AND THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

Internationally the Commission was elected to be the Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions which has 44 members from across Council of Europe Member States, and separately continued its statutory work in monitoring and reporting on the implementation of Ireland’s human rights and equality obligations.

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 in English 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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