‘Persistently low’ State investment is holding back progress on ESC rights, UN body finds

Committee also notes concern over Ireland’s growing income disparities

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘The Commission’) welcomes the comments and recommendations to Ireland, published by a United Nations Committee yesterday.

In its Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights raised its concerns across several key areas in which Ireland is falling short of its human rights obligations, and where little progress has been made over the last decade.

Notable amongst these are the observations that the budget for protecting economic, social and cultural rights is “persistently low”, that growing income disparities are a cause for concern, and that there are high rates of poverty among certain parts of the population.

These observations reflect our input, made as part of the review process, during which we reported that significant parts of our society lack the basic resources to live with dignity, despite broader trends of economic growth and prosperity at the national level. The Committee recommended that the State adopt a multidimensional national action plan to eradicate poverty and to address both the root causes of poverty and the additional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Committee also raised concerns about the inadequacy of social security benefits, as well as the insufficiency of the minimum wage to ensure a decent living for workers and their families. It called on the State to index the national minimum wage and social security benefits to the cost of living. This echoes the recommendations in our report to the Committee, where we called for indexation as a matter of priority and raised our concerns about the inadequacy of the State’s living wage calculations in the context of high inflation.

While the Committee did note some areas of progress on ESC rights, including the Pathways to Work Strategy (2021-2025), the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021, and the establishment of the Child Poverty and Wellbeing Programme Office, it set out areas where the State must act if it is to fulfil its obligations under the ICESCR. These include:

  • On non-discrimination: The Committee noted the continued absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Ireland. They recommended that the State adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. This should include explicit references to all prohibited grounds of discrimination, including socioeconomic status; definitions of direct, indirect, intersectional and multiple discrimination; and a prohibition against discrimination in both the public and the private spheres.
  • On housing and accommodation: The Committee noted that the lack of social housing has forced households to move into the private rental sector, which is not adequate in terms of affordability, habitability, accessibility and security of tenure. It is also concerned about the persistence of homelessness, particularly among marginalised and disadvantaged individuals and groups. They also recommended, especially for those same groups that Ireland ensures a sufficient supply of housing, in particular social housing units.
  • On health: The Committee expressed its concerns about the large disparities between different socioeconomic groups in access to healthcare services and the shortcomings in the health system, in particular low budgeting, shortages of medical staff and obstacles preventing access to health services for the most marginalised and those living in remote areas. They recommended that Ireland steps up its efforts to ensure, in practice, a universal and comprehensive healthcare system and allocate additional resources to increase the capacity of Sláintecare. This should include the recruitment and training of additional healthcare personnel, a reduction in waiting times, and reduce obstacles that prevent access to health care particularly in healthcare infrastructure and services in remote and rural areas.
  • On climate: The Committee shared its view that current emissions-reduction policies may not be sufficient for the State party to observe its obligations under the Paris Agreement. It calls on Ireland to take all measures necessary to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, in particular in the agricultural and land-use, land-use change and forestry sectors, by increasing taxation on emissions, and to further improve the national adaptation plan to cover all relevant groups. The Committee also recommends that the State make every effort to replace fossil fuel in its energy mix, including by increasing renewable energy as an alternative.

The UN Committee has identified three priority recommendations that require urgent action: indexing minimum wages to the cost of living, establishing rules requiring businesses to carry out mandatory human rights due diligence reporting and undertaking an independent assessment of the impacts of Irish tax policy on developing countries. Under this follow-up procedure, Ireland is required to report back to the Committee by 31 March 2026 about the progress achieved in these areas, and the Commission will continue to exercise its monitoring role to hold the State to account.

Noeline Blackwell, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Member,

“The breadth of concern raised by the Committee in its review of Ireland reflects just how far the State has to go if it is to fulfil the obligations it signed up to in ICESCR.

What is clear is that economic growth alone is not the solution to the issues raised, and that if we are to see real progress in Ireland on ESC rights, the State needs to act with vision, ambition and commitment.

The State needs to use all the tools at its disposal, from legislation, policy, and funding, to strategic and structural reform, while ensuring rigorous implementation, particularly if the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of society are to see meaningful change to their lives.”



For further information, please contact:

Jonathan Leddy, IHREC Communications

01 859 2635 | jonathan.leddy@ihrec.ie

Jean O’Mahony, Head of Strategic Engagement

01 859 2609 | 087 382 4248


Notes to Editors:

You can read our full report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Ireland’s fourth periodic review, and the Executive Summary by following these links:

You can read the Committee’s Concluding Observations on Ireland’s 4th Periodic Review by following this link:


The Commission submitted a report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as part of Ireland’s fourth periodic review. An oral dialogue between the Committee and State representatives subsequently took place between 15-16 February 2024, during which the Committee assessed Ireland’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. The Commission had a private meeting with the Committee on 14 February 2024 to further inform this dialogue, and the resulting Concluding Observations.

The Follow-up Procedure to the 4th Periodic Review

The three recommendations that the Committee has requested the State to report back on by the 31 March 2026 are:

  • On Business and Human Rights; that the State adopts a comprehensive regulatory framework on human rights due diligence, making it compulsory for business enterprises operating or domiciled in the State party jurisdiction and entities that they control, including those in their supply chains, to identify, prevent, mitigate and address human rights abuses in their domestic and overseas operations. They should give prioritisation to enterprises that are State-owned and those in which the State has shareholding.
  • On Maximum Available Resources; that the State conducts an independent and comprehensive assessment of the impacts of its national and international tax policy on the economies of developing countries and report on findings in its next periodic report.
  • On the Minimum Wage; that the State takes effective measures to ensure that the minimum wage is sufficient to enable workers and their families to enjoy a decent living by indexing it to the cost of living.

The 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 NHRI 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.