UPR of Ireland: child rights and prison conditions key areas of concern
Monday, 10 October 2011 14:30


The Working Group on the UPR met on 6 October 2011 to review the human rights situation in Ireland.  The Irish delegation was made up of five men and two women, and was headed by Mr Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice and Equality.  In his introductory speech, the Minister expressed Ireland’s commitment to the UPR process, describing the UPR as one of the outstanding achievements of the Human Rights Council.  He referred to several changes that have occurred since the submission of the national report in July, including the intention to hold the Constitutional Referendum on Children’s Rights next year.  He also emphasised that it was important that those States asking questions should have a bedrock of respect for human rights within their own country, to prevent the dialogue being used in an opportunistic or political manner.


The main issues that were recognised and elaborated on by the Irish delegation were those of children’s rights, particularly with respect to the past abuse of children within the country; the consolidation of structures to promote human rights, such as the merging of the Irish Human Rights Commission with the Equality Commission; and the issue of high levels of imprisonment.  The challenges of high migration were also discussed, as well as the potential effect of the country’s current fiscal difficulties on the protection of human rights.  These issues were noted by States in the interactive dialogue, and the following recommendations, questions, and comments were the focus of the review.

  • Recommendations to ratify or accede to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
  • Recommendations to improve sanitation and reduce overcrowding in prisons to bring Ireland into line with international obligations on inhumane and degrading treatment.
  • Concern over Ireland’s highly restrictive abortion laws, and recommendations to change this, specifically by implementation of the decision of the European Court in A, B and C v Ireland.[1]
  • Recommendations to further women’s involvement in public life, reduce the gender pay gap, and to strengthen efforts to reduce domestic violence.
  • Concerns regarding the country’s immigration policy, including the issue of family reunification and the detention of failed asylum seekers in normal prisons.
  • Concern over the potential effect of budget cuts in society, particularly a lack of resources for the human rights commission and the possibility of an increase in racism due to the tension caused by budget cuts and unemployment, and reduced funding to anti-racism campaigns.
  • Questioning of the Government’s hesitation in declaring the traveller community an ethnic minority.
  • Recommendations to ensure non-discrimination in access to education for all faiths and ethnicities.
  • Recommendations from several Muslim countries to ensure the rights of Muslims in Ireland to practice their religion freely.
  • Concern over the growing number of sham marriages taking place (particularly involving vulnerable young women from Eastern Europe), which amount to human trafficking and should be prosecuted and punished as such.
  • Commendations on the investigations into past child abuse within the country and encouragement of further work on this issue.

The delegation responded openly to the issues raised by States, and provided a detailed account of the human rights structures in the country, and the developments currently taking place.  They referred to the constraints placed on them by their current fiscal situation, but confirmed that there was a comprehensive system in place to protect the rights of vulnerable persons. The delegation rejected claims of racial profiling by police, and stated that constitutional provisions ensured freedom of religion in the country. Ireland was praised for its comprehensive national report and its creation of a special UPR website for the process, as well as its standing invitation to UN special procedures, and its record of extensive foreign aid contributions.


Of 126 recommendations made during the review, 62 were accepted, 15 were rejected, and 49 will be reviewed before the 19th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012. In its closing comments the Irish delegation said it will continue working with civil society throughout the implementation process.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 14:39
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