Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Annual Report 2021 Published

  • Disability discrimination remains highest area of public contact representing 46% of contacts related to services and 36% of contacts related to employment. Public contacts up slightly from 2020.
  • Access to bank accounts and driving licences unlocked for refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Expanding powers in EU anti-trafficking role and Post-Brexit rights monitoring.
  • Record level of parliamentary appearances (10). Recommendations made to Government and Oireachtas on Mother and Baby Homes, on National Anti-Racism Plan and across key legislation affecting rights and equality.
  • Successful legal cases include challenges against age discrimination in the Gardaí and An Post, on disability discrimination against the Prison Service and an estate agent, and several cases against landlords for HAP related discrimination.
  • New Research delivered on the use of Ireland’s Emergency Powers during the Covid-19 Pandemic, on Decent Work and provision of Adequate Housing.

 12 July 2021– The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has today published its 2021 Annual Report to the Houses of the Oireachtas, marking its seventh full year of work as Ireland’s national human rights and equality body. The report details a year of significant activity and impact for the Commission.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“We’ve continued to witness a steady stream of rights and equality issues, which threaten people’s individual dignity, open routes to discrimination, and stifle people’s potential.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the problems it partially masked rise again. These include the well-established issues of homelessness and housing provision, of gender-based violence, structural issues of care, historic wrongs, the rights of persons with disabilities, and how those coming here to seek asylum and refuge are treated.”


Direct Public Queries to our Your Rights service

We received 1811 individual queries, compared to 1,732 in the previous year.

Of the public queries to us:

  • The top three public concerns related to the Equal Status Acts, focused on discrimination on the grounds of disability (46%), housing assistance (16%) and race (13%).
  • The top three public concerns under the Employment Equality Acts focused on discrimination in employment and job seeking on the grounds of disability (34%), gender (25%) and the race ground (14%).
  • The top three public concerns in relation to human rights focused on health and bodily integrity (28%), right to work and decent work (14%), and Asylum seekers/ Human Trafficking/ Immigration/Family Reunification/Right to Remain/Freedom of Movement (14%).
  • We launched a redeveloped ‘Your Rights’ section of our website ( ) making it easier for people to access information on combatting discrimination. This is now the most visited individual section of our website, accounting for approximately 21% of all page views.

 Legal interventions included:

  • For people seeking asylum and international protection two major obstacles blocking access to work were removed – being able to open bank accounts, secured in May, and apply for driving licences, secured in December.
  • We used our legal powers widely, including to contribute in the Courts to Mary Harney and Philomena Lee’s successful challenge of the Final Report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.
  • We concluded an unprecedented 33 Equality Reviews, including 31 with all local authorities in the country on the provision of Traveller Specific Accommodation.

Growth in the Commission

  • We took on a new role as Ireland’s Independent Rapporteur for Human Trafficking under EU law.
  • Work began as the new Dedicated Mechanism with Northern Ireland equality/rights bodies to tackle all-island rights and equality issues stemming from Brexit.
  • A year-on-year growth in staffing to 72 from 62.

Research Evidence for Policy Progress

  • We brought forward new research with TCD on Ireland’s Emergency Powers During the Covid-19 Pandemic and 2 research reports published with the ESRI focused on provision of decent work and access to adequate housing.
  • Funding of €350,000 was provided through the 6th year of our Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme to 28 projects nationally.

 Challenging Racism through public awareness

  • We progreessed public awareness work in our “All Human All Equal” #AllAgainstRacism campaign, and formed a striking partnership with Hot Press magazine to share the voices of 100 well-known people discussing racism, including Bob Geldof, Denise Chaila, Sinéad O’Connor and President Michael D Higgins.

Influencing Policy and Practice

  • We made ten parliamentary appearances before the Oireachtas and Northern Ireland Assembly covering a diverse range of topics, including online safety, direct provision, Mother & Baby Homes, cross-border rights post-Brexit, Traveller Accommodation provision and disability rights.


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Head of Strategic Engagement

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

Download full report in English 

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 as required under EU equality law.

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.