Human Rights Law in Ireland

In Ireland, the national courts are responsible for determining allegations of human rights violations.

Although Ireland has ratified a number of international human rights treaties, under Irish law, an individual can only engage the protections afforded under human rights law that has been incorporated into national law, such as for example the rights protected under:

  • the Irish Constitution
  • the European Convention of Human Rights Act 2004-2014 and
  • where EU law is applicable, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

This is because the Irish Constitution states that “no international agreement shall be part of the domestic law of the State save as may be provided by the Oireachtas”

This means that although Ireland binds itself in international law upon ratifying a human rights treaty, it only gives effect to the provisions of that treaty in domestic law through Acts of the Oireachtas, or where a treaty right is already provided for under the Irish Constitution.

The lack of incorporation does not, however, mean that these standards cannot be raised in legal argument. For example, the Irish Courts can, and have attached a form of persuasive authority to unincorporated international human rights instruments.

On exhausting all domestic remedies, it may then be open to an individual to make a complaint to a regional, or international human rights body.

For example, at a regional level individuals can make complaints to the European Court of Human Rights – more information can be accessed at  http://echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=home.

Also, certain international human rights conventions to which Ireland is a party, have individual complaints mechanisms.  More information can be accessed at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/TBPetitions/Pages/HRTBPetitions.aspx

As explained above however, the enforceability of either the regional or international human rights bodies may be limited due to Ireland’s legal system.