The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar


TITLE:  IRELAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                    IRELAND


The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a 
long tradition of orderly transfer of power.  Individual 
liberties and civil rights are protected by the 1937 
Constitution and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

A civilian police force maintains public safety.  Successive 
governments have had to deal with the spillover into the 
Republic of terrorist violence from Northern Ireland.  That 
violence led authorities to adopt legislation in 1984 granting 
the police increased powers to detain and interrogate those 
suspected of acts of terrorism.  During 1993 officials 
continued to show restraint in exercising these powers.

The economy, based largely on free enterprise, has grown 
rapidly as a result of long-term policies of industrialization 
and diversification which are agreed upon among the Government, 
the labor unions, and the business community.  The economy 
performed well in 1993; exports were strong and the budget 
deficit was reduced.  However, the rate of unemployment was 
22 percent.

The Government and people of Ireland attach great importance to 
the observance and maintenance of human rights.  Significant 
discrimination against women continued in 1993, although 
attitudes are changing and legislation seeking to address the 
problem was introduced.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In the past, politically motivated killings occurred in Ireland 
as a spillover from the violence in Northern Ireland.  In these 
cases, such groups as the Provisional Irish Republican Army 
(IRA) or the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) usually 
claimed responsibility.  The Government used the full force of 
law to pursue and prosecute such cases wherever possible.  No 
political or other extrajudicial killings were reported in the 
Republic in 1993.


     b.  Disappearance

Persons are not abducted, secretly arrested, or held in 
clandestine detention by the authorities.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment are 
prohibited by laws which are observed in practice.

Efforts were made to ameliorate the problem of prison 
overcrowding, but it continues to have an adverse impact on the 
psychological well-being of detainees.  The Irish Council on 
Civil Liberties noted that prisoners in Ireland have a high 
suicide rate compared to those in England and Wales; that 
Ireland's largest prison, Mountjoy Jail, has no sanitation 
facilities in the cells; that there is no separate, suitable 
prison for women nor provision of separate secure units for 
young people, resulting in 14- and 15-year-olds being mixed in 
with the regular adult population; and that prison conditions 
are unacceptable for prisoners suffering from the human 
immunodeficiency virus ( HIV).

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that a person shall be deprived of 
personal liberty only in accordance with the law.  This is 
respected in practice.  The Constitution also provides for a 
judicial determination of the legality of a person's detention 
and requires that the arresting authorities make written 
explanation to the court about the person concerned.

The use of short-term detention without charges being brought 
is restricted.  It is permitted for a maximum of 48 hours in 
cases covered by the Offenses Against the State Act of 1939, 
legislation designed to "prevent actions and conduct calculated 
to undermine public order and the authority of the State."  
This legislation, reactivated in 1972, was broadened to include 
other "scheduled offenses" against peace and order.  The police 
may arrest and detain for questioning anyone suspected of any 
terrorist offense involving firearms, explosives, membership in 
an unlawful organization, or malicious damage to property.  
After the 48-hour period, the person must be brought before a 
magistrate, presented with written charges, and given legal 
representation.


The omnibus Criminal Justice Act of 1984 gave the police 
increased powers of detention for interrogation.  It took 
effect in 1987 after implementation of the companion Complaints 
Procedure.  The Act gave the police (garda) the authority to 
detain for up to 12 hours a person under reasonable suspicion 
of having committed a crime.  Neither incommunicado detention 
nor exile is used.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Fair public trial is provided for by the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  A defendant has the right to legal 
counsel.  The courts are independent, and jury trial is the 
norm.  There is provision for free legal aid and appeal against 
conviction or sentence.  The Constitution provides, however, 
for the creation of "special courts" to deal with cases in 
which the "ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the 
effective administration of justice and the preservation of 
public peace and order."  The Offenses Against the State Act 
formally authorized such courts in instances of offenses 
against national security, particularly cases of political 
violence perpetrated by terrorist groups likely to intimidate 
regular juries.  Rather than having juries, these courts have 
panels of judges, each consisting of an uneven number not less 
than three.  Their verdicts are by majority vote.  Rules of 
evidence generally are similar to those of regular courts, 
except that the sworn statement of a police Chief 
Superintendent that the accused is a member of an illegal 
organization is considered prima facie evidence of such 
membership.  Court sessions are usually public but may exclude 
certain persons, other than genuine press representatives.  
There were 12 special court trials, and 12 convictions, through 
the end of October.

In an effort to provide adequate legal assistance for those 
unable to afford lawyers, the 1994 budget increases from 
$3,018,800 (2,000,000 Irish pounds) to almost $7,547,000 
(5,000,000 Irish pounds) funding for the Legal Aid Board, which 
provides legal assistance to the indigent.  Part of the 
increase is to be used to establish new law centers and to 
enable the 16 full-time and 19 part-time centers to provide 
improved services to their clients.


     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Some Irish laws, such as the prohibition of divorce, reflect 
the point of view of the majority of the population.  The area 
of family law--including the rights of illegitimate children--
is the subject of current debate in which minority religious 
communities have taken a vocal and active role.

Though not specifically provided for in the Constitution, the 
inviolability of personal privacy, family, and home is affirmed 
by the Supreme Court and generally observed.  The Constitution, 
however, provides that the State shall enact no law "providing 
for the grant of the dissolution of marriage."  A proposal to 
amend the Constitution to permit divorce in limited 
circumstances was overwhelmingly defeated in a 1986 nationwide 
referendum.  In the same year, the European Court of Human 
Rights ruled that the prohibition of divorce is not a breach of 
the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Ireland is a 
party.  The Government, which assumed office in January 1993, 
has pledged to hold another referendum on divorce in 1994.  It 
announced plans to introduce legislation safeguarding the 
economic rights of women in marriage before holding the 
referendum, and in this connection the Parliament passed a 
"matrimonial homes" bill providing for joint ownership of the 
principal residence and furnishings.  However, on January 24, 
1994, the Supreme Court found the bill unconstitutional.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

These freedoms are provided for by the Constitution and 
generally respected in practice.  Publication or utterance of 
"blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter" is an offense 
punishable by law.  In practice this law is directed against 
pornographic material.  Convictions result in sentences 
requiring fines.

The state-owned radio and television network, on the basis of 
constitutional provisions dealing with public order and the 
authority of the State, has denied airtime to members of 
certain listed political organizations, including Provisional 
Sinn Fein, the legal political front of the illegal Provisional 
IRA.  In 1982, the Irish Supreme Court upheld the 
constitutionality of this policy.  Political parties not on the 
list are given access both to publicly owned radio and 
television facilities and to major independent daily newspapers 
and criticism of the Government in such media flourishes.  A 
provision of the 1960 Broadcasting Act prohibiting broadcasts 
on radio or television of Sinn Fein representatives was not 
recertified by the Government upon its expiration on January 
19, 1994.  The Supreme Court had earlier ruled that radio and 
television networks could not prohibit the "nonpolitical" 
appearance of someone simply by virtue of incidental membership 
in Sinn Fein.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are provided for by the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  Certain terrorist organizations, such 
as the Provisional IRA and INLA, however, are illegal, and 
membership in them is an offense against national security 
punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 7 years.  Political 
parties or groups associated with such organizations, such as 
Sinn Fein, are not proscribed, although some of their freedoms 
may be restricted, as described in Section 2.a.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The population is 94 percent Roman Catholic.  The Constitution 
provides for freedom of religion, and there are no restrictions 
upon freedom of worship.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There is freedom of movement within the country, as well as 
freedom to engage in foreign travel, emigration, and voluntary 
repatriation.  Irish authorities have accepted asylum seekers 
only on a limited basis and apply international definitions to 
those who claim refugee status.  Some applicants for asylum 
have been held in detention for varying lengths of time-- 
occasionally over a year--pending the adjudication of their 
applications.  Others, such as a group of 27 Kurdish men, 
women, and children, who asked for asylum at Shannon Airport in 
November 1992, were violently forced back onto their aircraft.  
These Kurds were denied access to a lawyer, an interpreter, or 
a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.  
Eyewitnesses reported that during the struggle police and 
immigration officials resorted to physical and verbal abuse; 
many were injured.  The Minister for Justice asked the police 
for a full report, which at year's end was not yet available.  
The Alien Act of 1935 gave the Minister for Justice unlimited 
discretion in regard to treatment of all aliens, including 
those who qualify for refugee status under international law.  
Although Ireland has ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention 
Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 New York 
Protocol, their provisions cannot be implemented until they 
have been incorporated into domestic legislation.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Since the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923, periodic 
elections have resulted in the orderly transfer of political 
power.  There are several political parties, and independents 
may stand for election to either House of Parliament.  The 
constitutional requirement that elections be held at least 
every 5 years has always been met.  Ireland uses a proportional 
voting system, and the secrecy of the ballot is fully 
safeguarded.  There is universal suffrage for those over 18 
years of age.  Only 20 of 166 parliamentary deputies are 
women.  Women participate in all departments of government, but 
are underrepresented at senior levels.  There are two women 
ministers and three women ministers of state.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties operates freely and 
without hindrance as the principal independent organization 
interested in domestic human rights issues.

The Government has generally ignored efforts by prisoners' 
rights advocacy groups to improve conditions of detention:  
there was relatively little pressure on the Government to do 
anything; money to improve facilities significantly was 
lacking; and the popular attitude was that prisoners were 
criminals who deserved harsh treatment.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

A criminal law bill dealing with sexual offenses passed on 
July 7, inter alia, legalized homosexuality.


     Women

Women are discriminated against in the areas of equal pay and 
promotion to senior positions in both the public and the 
private sectors and the provision of child-care facilities.  
The Government pledged to implement the recommendations of the 
Second Commission on the Status of Women, publicly released 
during the year.  These recommendations include a requirement 
that at least 40 percent of all public appointees be women (see 
below).  The Government created in early 1993 a new department, 
Equality and Law Reform, for the purpose of legislating gender 
equality and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination.  
Women were overrepresented in the lower grades of the public 
service and underrepresented in the higher grades.

The Antidiscrimination (Pay) Act of 1974 and the Employment 
Equality Act of 1977 sought to provide protection and redress 
against gender and pay discrimination.  The Employment Equality 
Agency monitors their operation.  The number of cases has 
fallen in recent years, but progress in eliminating the 
differential in the key index of average hourly earnings in 
industry has been very modest.  In 1993 the average hourly wage 
for women was 60 percent of what men received and their weekly 
earnings averaged 68 percent of men's weekly pay.

Violence against women occurs, and while no one has 
systematically studied the extent of the problem, it is 
believed to be serious.  The Rape Crisis Center had 5,009 
inquiries in 1992 about rape, sexual abuse, and child sexual 
abuse; 25 women who claimed to have been raped contacted the 
Center soon after the crime.  Comparable figures for 1993 were 
not available.  The Center estimated that 30 percent of rape 
victims report the crime to the police and that 10 percent of 
those (3 percent of the total) go to trial.  In addition to 
rape and other sexual abuse, beatings of women and children are 
common; they are frequently related to alcohol abuse.  A number 
of organizations exist which function as lobbying groups on 
behalf of more effective legislation, prosecution of those 
accused of these crimes, and protection for women.  The media 
have expanded coverage of crimes against women.  The Rape 
(Amendment) Act of 1990 criminalized rape within marriage and 
provided for free legal advice to the victim.  Women's groups 
are seeking the extension of this provision to that of actual 
legal representation, as well as increased counseling and other 
support services for the victims of rape and domestic violence.


The Prime Minister established the Second Commission on the 
Status of Women in 1990 with the mandate to promote greater 
equality for women in all facets of Irish life.  As priority 
objectives, the Commission identified child care, training and 
education, the development of employment opportunities, legal 
rights and protection, and the appropriate funding of 
representative bodies and support services.  At the 
Government's request, the Commission paid particular attention 
to the needs of the full-time homemaker (only a third of Irish 
women work outside the home).  It was in this regard that the 
Commission obtained from the Government the promise of early 
introduction of legislation providing for automatic joint 
ownership of the family home.

The Council for the Status of Women, representing over 100 
national women's organizations, provides the central focus for 
pursuit of legislative and other reforms to end discrimination 
against women and to promote fuller participation by women in 
the social, economic, and political life of the country.

     Children

The Status of Children Act of 1987 and the Child Care Act of 
1991 provide for governmental promotion of the welfare of 
children.  However, there are no reliable statistics concerning 
the enforcement of these laws.  In 1992 Ireland ratified the 
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Despite the 
Convention's provision that governments must make the 
principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, the 
Government had not done so by the end of 1993.

Children born out of wedlock have the same rights as other 
children.  The Status of Children Act abolished the main legal 
discrimination between the two categories.  The terms 
"legitimate" and "illegitimate" may no longer be used in 
legislation.

A 1991 seminar organized by the Youth Committee of the Irish 
Congress of Trade Unions highlighted the issue of low pay and 
exploitation of young people still attending school and engaged 
in part-time or holiday work.  A subsequent survey revealed 
that the rates of pay, as established by joint labor 
committees, were not being followed.  On the average, female 
workers over 16 years of age were paid 90 percent of males' 
hourly rate; females under 16 were paid 72 percent of males' 
rate.


     People with Disabilities

Few public or private buildings have facilities for the 
disabled.  Public transport has none.  The Dublin Bus Company 
plans to begin using five "low-bottom" buses in January 1994 as 
a first step in accommodating the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Workers have the right to associate freely and to strike.  The 
right to join a union is guaranteed by law, as is the right to 
refrain from joining.  Antiunion actions before registration of 
a union are legally prohibited.  The Industrial Relations Act 
of 1990 introduced limitations on picketing but generally 
renewed legal guarantees of immunity to union members and 
officials for industrial actions with regard to terms or 
conditions of employment.  Strikes in 1993 included a brief 
"wildcat" strike at Dublin Airport by Aer Lingus employees, a 
week-long Dublin bus drivers' strike, and a dental assistants' 
strike which lasted 4 days.  The Employer-Labor Council 
mediated a settlement of the latter by offering the dental 
assistants the amount they wanted as a "special payment" rather 
than as a raise which would apply to all public sector 
employees.

About 55 percent of workers in the private and public sectors 
are members of unions.  Police and military personnel are 
prohibited from joining unions or striking, but they may form 
associations to represent them in matters of pay, working 
conditions, and general welfare.

The right to strike is freely exercised in both the public and 
private sectors.  The Industrial Relations Act of 1990 
prohibits retribution against strikes and union leaders; the 
Government effectively enforces it through the Department of 
Enterprise and Employment.  A 2-week strike by employees of the 
state-owned Electricity Supply Board in the spring of 1990 led 
the Labor Relations Commission to draft a code of conduct for 
industrial relations in essential services.  The Ministry of 
Enterprise and Employment promulgated the code in July.  
Negotiations between business and labor on the code's 
implementation were in progress at year's end.  There are no 
restrictions on civil liberties which affect unions.


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which represents 
unions in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, has 88 member 
unions with 678,800 members.  Both the ICTU and the 
unaffiliated unions are independent of the Government and the 
political parties.  Unions may freely form or join federations 
or confederations and affiliate with international bodies.  The 
ICTU is affiliated with the European Trade Union Confederation.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor unions have full freedom to organize and to engage in 
collective bargaining.  Legislation prohibits antiunion 
discrimination.  The Anti-Discrimination in Pay Act of 1974 and 
the Employment Equality Act of 1977 make the Employment 
Equality Agency responsible for oversight of disputes over 
allegations of discrimination.  If the Agency is unable resolve 
such disputes amicably, the Labor Court becomes responsible for 
doing so.  The Unfair Dismissals Act of 1977 requires employers 
guilty of antiunion discrimination to reinstate workers fired 
for union activities.

Most terms and conditions of employment are determined through 
collective bargaining, which took place in 1993 in the context 
of a national economic pact, Program for Economic and Social 
Progress (PESP), negotiated by representatives of unions, 
employers, farmers, and the Government.  The PESP included an 
agreement between the Congress of Trade Unions and the 
Federation of Irish Employers establishing standard pay 
increases for the 3-year period of its duration.  The agreement 
also provided for a one-time wage increase of up to 3 percent 
to be negotiated at local level during the second year of the 
PESP.

The Industrial Relations Act of 1990 established the Labor 
Relations Commission which provides advice and conciliation 
services in industrial disputes.  The Commission may refer 
unresolved disputes to the Labor Court.  The Labor Court, 
consisting of an employer representative, a trade union 
representative, and an independent chairman, may investigate 
trade union disputes, recommend terms of settlement, engage in 
conciliation and arbitration, and set up joint committees to 
regulate conditions of employment and minimum rates of pay for 
workers in a given trade or industry.

There are no export processing zones.


     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law and does not exist in 
practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 14 years with the written 
permission of the parents.  Hours of employment are limited by 
law for those 15 years of age to 8 hours per day and 40 hours 
per week.  Those from 16 to 17 years of age may work up to 9 
hours per day and 40 hours per week.  These provisions are 
effectively enforced by the Labor Department.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no general minimum wage legislation.  However, some 
workers are covered by minimum wage laws applicable to specific 
industrial sectors, mainly those that tend to pay lower than 
average wages.  Although the lowest of these minimum wage rates 
would not be sufficient to provide a decent living for a family 
of four, additional benefits, including subsidized housing and 
children's allowances, are available to low-income families.  
Working hours in the industrial sector are limited to 9 hours 
per day and 48 hours per week.  Overtime work is limited to 
2 hours per day, 12 hours per week, and 240 hours in a year.  
As part of the National Economic Pact adopted in 1987, the 
standard workweek has been reduced to 39 hours.  The Labor 
Department is responsible for enforcing four basic laws dealing 
with occupational safety that provide adequate and 
comprehensive coverage.  There were no significant complaints 
from either labor or management in 1993 regarding enforcement 
of these laws.


[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.