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Human Rights in Ireland

Human rights in Ireland are subject to scrutiny at home and abroad. The Department of Foreign Affairs engages with Civil Society Organisations in Ireland on international human rights issues and on the reporting requirements to which the State is subject.

It is the duty of all States to respect, protect and uphold human rights. Through their international obligations, governments are primarily responsible for creating the conditions in which rights can be realised and for ensuring that rights are not violated.

Ireland is committed to having human rights both at the heart of both our national and foreign policy. The 1937 Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, predates both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights and contains strong emphasis on fundamental rights, which are in effect, human rights principles by a different name.

Inter-Departmental Committee on Human Rights

In The Global Island: Ireland's Foreign Policy for a Changing World (January 2015), the Government made a commitment to improve the coherence of the promotion and protection of human rights in Ireland's Foreign Policy, including through the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Committee on Human Rights. The Committee is chaired by the Minister of State and its responsibilities include assisting progress towards the ratification by Ireland of key international human rights treaties and ensuring timely reporting to human rights monitoring bodies.

See Terms of Reference of the Inter-Departmental Committee.

Business and Human Rights

National Plan on Business and Human Rights

In 2017 the Irish Government approved the National Plan to implement aspects of the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Ireland is only one of 21 countries to have prepared such a Plan. The whole-of-government Plan aims to promote responsible business practices at home and overseas by all Irish business enterprises. Under the Plan the Government established a multi-stakeholder Implementation Group to oversee the execution of the National Plan.

Find out more about Business and Human Rights.

We engage with NGOs on human rights issues on an ongoing basis and formally through the following structures:

DFA Committee on Human Rights

This DFA Committee on Human Rights was established in 1997 to provide a framework for a regular exchange of views between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and representatives of the NGO community, as well as civil society more generally.

It comprises human rights experts, academics, NGO representatives and representatives of Department of Foreign Affairs and other governmental departments. Depending on the volume of opportunities for consultations in other settings, this Committee meets several times a year to discuss international matters of concern, including Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law and Ireland’s foreign policy positions on international human rights issues of concern.

DFA Civil Society Forum

The Civil Society Forum provides a platform for civil society in Ireland to gather, together with representatives of DFA, and exchange views on international human rights priorities of mutual concern. A wide range of topics have been discussed at the Forum since its inception in 1998.

More information on previous fora.

Ireland and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

The establishment of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was one of the key innovations of the Human Rights Council (HRC). It is unique insofar as it is the only international peer review mechanism for the human rights records of all UN Member States. The review of each country take places during a four and a half to five year cycle and at one of the sessions of the UPR Working Group.

The process involves the preparation of a National Report by the State under Review and submission to the UN of reports by civil society organisations; an interactive dialogue during which other States are given an opportunity to ask questions and make recommendations on human rights issues; and the adoption by the HRC of the report of the Working Group which includes the State’s position on the recommendations made.

In November 2021, Ireland completed its third cycle of the UPR. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, led a cross-governmental delegation in presenting Ireland’s National Report and responding to UN Member States’ questions and views on our domestic human rights record. Relevant reports from Ireland’s three reviews to date can be found here

As a reflection of the value of the UPR process, Ireland has committed to engaging actively in each and every review. Ireland makes constructive recommendations to all Member States on a range of human rights issues, often highlighting particular concerns related to the death penalty, restrictions on civil society space, and discrimination against women and LGBTIQ+ persons. Ireland’s previous statements delivered at the Universal Periodic Review are available to read here.

Ireland strongly supports civil society engagement in the UPR process. The Permanent Mission of Ireland in Geneva meets with civil society representatives in advance of every review and our global network of Missions regularly engage with civil society.

Ireland also provides funding to UPR info, a non-governmental organisation that aims to raise awareness of the UPR process and support engagement of all stakeholders, including through hosting UPR pre-sessions, which provide civil society organisations with an advocacy platform to engage with UN Member States.

Reporting on International Conventions

The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for facilitating the ratification of international human rights instruments. Ireland has ratified the core UN human rights treaties and a wide range of other international human rights instruments.

For each UN Covenant or Convention, States Parties are obliged to submit periodic reports to specialised committees of the UN, known as the human rights treaty monitoring bodies, on the progress made in implementing the treaty domestically.

The Human Rights Unit of DFA coordinates Irish reporting in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).The Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth coordinate the responses in relation to the other treaties.

These national reports are then published by the relevant treaty monitoring body and interested NGOs are invited to submit their observations. Subsequent to this, the treaty monitoring body presents a list of issues on which it requests further information from the State.

The treaty monitoring body then publishes its Concluding Observations after a hearing is conducted with a national delegation appearing before it to respond to further questions. Such hearings normally take place in Geneva.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

The ICCPR is an international human rights treaty that aims to protect civil and political rights.The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Committee on Civil and Political Rights, a body of 18 independent experts. Ireland ratified the Convention in 1989.

Ireland submitted its fifth periodic report under ICCPR in September 2019. To view the report please see:

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

ICESCRis an international human rights treaty that aims to protect economic, social and cultural rights. The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a body of 18 independent experts. Ireland ratified the Convention in 1989.

Ireland submitted its fourth national report on the implementation of ICESCR in February 2021. The report covers the period from 1 January 2011 to 21 December 2018.