The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see 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




The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a 
long tradition of orderly transfer of power.  The Constitution 
and Supreme Court decisions protect individual rights.  The 
Government and an independent judiciary traditionally respect 
and protect these rights.

The Government controls the police and the armed forces.  The 
spillover of violence from Northern Ireland led to legislation 
in 1984 that increased police power to detain and interrogate 
suspected terrorists.  The police have shown great restraint in 
exercising these powers.

The economy is based largely on free enterprise.  It performed 
well in 1994, and the rate of unemployment declined.

Human rights problems within Ireland arise primarily from the 
substandard prison conditions (especially the lack of separate 
facilities for women and for children), the lack of a coherent 
policy on refugees and asylum, and discrimination against and 
abuse of women and children.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading punishment, and there were no reports of violations.  
However, in many prisons conditions are barely tolerable, due 
to overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, or lack of other 
facilities.  There are no suitable prisons for women, and a 
lack of separate areas for young people results in 14- and 
15-year-olds being mixed in with adult prisoners.  The 
Government has indicated it hopes the overcrowding will be 
eased by the anticipated early release of prisoners as a result 
of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and by a planned new 
large prison.  On the other hand, it has shown no intention of 
significantly increasing its funding for prisons.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution stipulates that no person shall be deprived of 
personal liberty without due process under the law.  It 
requires that arresting authorities make written explanation to 
a court about the suspect, and that the court determine the 
legality of the detention.  The Criminal Justice Act of 1951, 
as amended in 1984, stipulates that "as soon as reasonably 
possible" the police must bring an arrested person before a 
justice of the district court or, if none is available, before 
a peace commissioner.  The Government and the courts fully 
respect these provisions.

Detention without a charge is permitted for up to 48 hours in 
cases covered by the Offenses Against the State Act of 1939, 
which aims to "prevent actions and conduct calculated to 
undermine public order and the authority of the State."  This 
Act allows police to arrest and detain for questioning anyone 
suspected of any terrorist offense involving firearms, 
explosives, membership in an unlawful organization, or 
malicious damage to property.  A person arrested under this Act 
may be held, without a charge, for up to 24 hours, and for a 
further 24 hours if a chief superintendent or still 
higher-ranking police officer so directs.  A detainee who is 
not charged within the 48-hour maximum period must be released 
upon its expiry.

The Criminal Justice Act of 1984 empowers the police to detain 
for up to 12 hours anyone under reasonable suspicion of having 
committed a crime.  The authorities do not impose incommunicado 
detention or exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for fair public trial, and the legal 
system honors this.  The accused generally may choose his or 
her attorney.  For indigents, the State assumes the cost.

The courts are independent, and jury trial is the norm.  
However, the Constitution provides 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" (e.g., due to a 
likelihood of terrorist intimidation of those courts).  The 
Offenses Against the State Act authorizes use of special courts 
for offenses against national security, particularly cases of 
political violence.  In lieu of juries, these courts have 
panels consisting of an odd number of judges (at least three) 
whose verdicts are by majority vote.  Rules of evidence are 
essentially the same as in regular courts except that the sworn 
statement of a police chief superintendent identifying the 
accused as a member of an illegal organization is accepted as 
prima facie evidence.  Sessions of special courts are usually 
public but the judge may exclude certain persons, other than 
journalists; appeal of exclusion can be made only through a 
separate judicial proceeding.  In 1994 there were 15 special 
court trials, resulting in conviction of 20 defendants.

In cases of certain other types of offenses (e.g., sexual), the 
judge in a regular court may exclude any or all persons except 
officers of the court, lawyers, or journalists, ostensibly to 
protect the reputations of persons involved in the trial.

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

The Supreme Court has affirmed that, although not specifically 
provided for in the Constitution, the inviolability of personal 
privacy, family, and home must be respected in law and 
practice; and the Government honors this.

However, the Constitution provides that the State shall enact 
no law permitting divorce.  A 1986 nationwide referendum 
overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to amend the Constitution to 
permit divorce in limited circumstances.  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 has 
pledged to hold another referendum on divorce, which now seems 
likely to occur in 1995.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, and the 
Government fully respects them.  The law prohibits publication 
or utterance of "blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter"; 
enforcement of this is directed almost exclusively against 
pornographic material.

The state-owned radio and television network has traditionally 
denied airtime to members of certain blacklisted political 
organizations, even lawful ones, under the 1960 Broadcasting 
Act.  The Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of 
this policy.  The Provisional Sinn Fein (the legal front of the 
illegal Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was long among 
the excluded organizations, but when the ban on it expired in 
January, the Government decided not to renew this.  
Broadcasting is mostly state-controlled.  A Broadcasting 
Complaints Commission oversees standards and investigates 
complaints about programming.  The State does not control 
newspapers, and no legislation regulates them per se.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are provided for by the Constitution, and the 
Government respects them even as regards groups associated with 
illegal terrorist organizations.  Membership in the illegal 
organizations is punishable by imprisonment for up to 7 years.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
Government does not hamper the teaching or practice of any 

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

There is complete freedom of movement within the country, as 
well as freedom to engage in foreign travel, emigration, and 
voluntary repatriation.

The Alien Act of 1935 gives the Justice Minister unlimited 
discretion in regard to treatment of all aliens, including 
those who qualify for refugee status under international law.  
The authorities have accepted asylum seekers only on a limited 
case-by-case basis, and have held them in detention in some 
cases for over a year before rendering a decision.

Some asylum seekers have been turned back upon arrival.  The 
police have completed the report requested by the Justice 
Minister on a 1992 incident in which they violently forced a 
group of 27 Kurdish men, women, and children--injuring 
many--back onto an aircraft at Shannon Airport, and denied them 
access to an interpreter, to a lawyer, and to a representative 
of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.  The report has not 
yet been released, pending the outcome of court action.

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

A constitutional requirement that elections be held at least 
every 5 years has always been met.  Suffrage is universal for 
citizens over age 18, and balloting is secret.  Several 
political parties have seats in the bicameral Parliament.  
Members of the Dail--the chamber that carries out the main 
legislative functions--are popularly elected; in the Senate, 
some members are elected and some are appointed by various 
bodies.  The President is popularly elected for a 7-year term, 
and is limited to two terms.  An appointed Council of State 
serves as an advisory body to the President.

Women number only 20 of the 166 deputies in the Dail; 8 of the 
60 senators; and 2 of the 15 ministers.  Of the 15 junior 
ministers, 3 are women.  While women participate in all 
departments of government, they are underrepresented at senior 
levels.  Official data show that at year's end women held 30 
percent of all public-sector jobs.

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

The principal independent organization monitoring domestic 
human rights issues, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, 
operates without hindrance from the Government.  The Government 
is similarly open to investigation of human rights abuses by 
international or nongovernmental organizations.

However, most independent critiques of human rights in Ireland 
have focused on the overcrowding and other conditions in the 
prisons, and the Government has generally ignored their 

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

Except as regards employment, neither the Constitution nor the 
law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, race, 
sex, language, or social status.  The Constitution, as amended, 
forbids state preferment of one religion over another and 
discrimination on the grounds of religious profession, belief, 
or status.


Working women are discriminated against as regards pay and 
promotions, in both the public and the private sectors, and 
many are also hampered by inadequate child-care facilities.  In 
1990 the Government established the Second Commission on the 
Status of Women, which published its recommendations in early 
1993; the Government pledged to implement them, including a 
requirement that at least 40 percent of all public appointees 
be women.

The Antidiscrimination (Pay) Act of 1974 and the Employment 
Equality Act of 1977 provide for protection and redress against 
discrimination based on gender.  The Employment Equality Agency 
monitors their operation.  The number of cases has fallen in 
recent years, but progress in eliminating the differential in 
earnings has been very modest.  In 1994 the hourly industrial 
wage for women was 60 percent of what men received and their 
weekly earnings averaged 68 percent of men's weekly pay.

There have been no systematic studies of violence against 
women, but indications are that it is widespread.  In 1994 the 
Rape Crisis Center, a private organization, received some 5,000 
telephone calls.  The Center estimates that only 30 percent of 
rape victims report the crime to the police, and that only 10 
percent of those go to trial.  A 1990 act criminalized rape 
within marriage, and provided for free legal advice to the 
victim.  In addition to rape and other sexual abuse, beatings 
of women are common.


The Status of Children Act of 1987 abolished the concept of 
illegitimacy and provided for equal rights for children in all 
legal proceedings.  There are no reliable data on enforcement, 
or on societal treatment of children, but it is believed that 
child abuse is common.  In recent years, sexual abuse of 
children has been receiving increased media attention.

     People with Disabilities

There is no legislation to protect disabled persons from 
discrimination in employment or in other matters, or to improve 
their access to buildings or transportation, and little has 
been accomplished in these regards.  Few public or private 
buildings have facilities for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right to join a union is guaranteed by law, as is the right 
to refrain from joining.  The law prohibits anti-union actions 
before registration of a union.

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 themselves 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 
strikers and union leaders; the Government effectively enforces 
it through the Department of Enterprise and Employment.  In 
July the Department of Enterprise and Employment promulgated a 
code of conduct for industrial relations in essential services; 
negotiations between business and labor on the code's 
implementation were in progress at year's end.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions represents 68 unions 
(including some in Northern Ireland).  Both it and the unions 
affiliated with it are independent of the Government and of the 
political parties.  Unions may freely form or join federations 
or confederations and affiliate with international bodies.

In 1994, as in previous years, strikes were common and some 
went on for several months.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor unions have full freedom to organize and to engage in 
collective bargaining.  The Anti-Discrimination in Pay Act of 
1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1977 make the 
Employment Equality Agency responsible for oversight of 
allegations of discrimination.  If the Agency is unable to 
effect resolution, the dispute goes before the Labor Court, 
which consists of one representative each for the employer and 
the union, plus an independent chairperson.  The Unfair 
Dismissals Act of 1977 provides various forms of relief in 
cases of employers guilty of antiunion discrimination, 
including the reinstatement of workers fired for union 

Most terms and conditions of employment are determined through 
collective bargaining, in the context of a national economic 
pact negotiated every 3 years by representatives of unions, 
employers, farmers, and the Government.  In February the latest 
such pact was concluded, and as usual it establishes standard 
pay increases and fixes a cap on any increases subsequently 
negotiated at local levels.

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, which may recommend 
terms of settlement and may set up joint employer-union 
committees to regulate conditions of employment and minimum 
wages in a specific 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 occur.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 14 years with the written 
permission of the parents.  For children of age 15 the law 
limits worktime to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.  For 
those of age 16 or 17, the limits are 9 hours per day and 40 
hours per week.  These provisions are effectively enforced by 
the Department of Equality and Law Reform.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no general minimum-wage law, but there are several 
applicable to specific industrial sectors, mainly those that 
tend to pay lower than average wages.  Although the lowest of 
these minimum wages would not be sufficient to provide a decent 
living for a family of four, low-income families are entitled 
to additional benefits such as subsidized housing and 
children's allowances.

The standard workweek is 39 hours.  Working hours in the 
industrial sector are limited to 9 hours per day and 48 hours 
per week.  Overtime is limited to 2 hours per day, 12 hours per 
week, and 240 hours in a year.  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 1994 regarding enforcement of these laws.


[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1994 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.