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Title:  Ireland Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 

                               IRELAND 
 
 
Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a long tradition of orderly 
transfer of power.  The Government is headed by a president and a prime 
minister, and there is a bicameral parliament.  The judiciary is 
independent. 
 
The national police are under the effective civilian control of the 
Minister of Justice, and have sole responsibility for internal security.  
Ireland's principal internal security concern has been to prevent the 
spillover of terrorist violence from Northern Ireland.  In February the 
Government lifted a 19-year-old state of emergency in response to cease-
fires by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and loyalist paramilitaries.  A 
1976 law that gave the defense forces search and arrest powers under 
certain circumstances was also allowed to lapse.  But the Special 
Criminal Court--a nonjury court set up in 1972 to address the problem of 
jury intimidation in paramilitary cases--remains in place and continues 
to be used sporadically despite the cease-fires.  Under the 1939 
Offenses Against the State Act, the Director of Public Prosecutions can 
have any case tried by the Special Criminal Court simply by certifying 
that the ordinary courts are "inadequate" to deal with it. 
 
Ireland has an open, market-based economy that is highly dependent on 
international trade.  It is a large net recipient of funds from the 
European Union (EU) designed to raise per capita gross national product 
to the EU average.  Despite strong economic growth over the past few 
years, unemployment remains high at approximately 15 percent. 
 
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens.  
Human rights problems arise primarily from: the continuation of 
emergency legislation and the non-jury court; prison overcrowding and 
substandard prison facilities; discrimination and violence against 
women; abuse of children; occasional censorship of films, books, and 
periodicals, and; a lack of explicit antidiscrimination legislation, 
especially in relation to persons with disabilities and "travelers" 
(Gypsies). 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
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 killings. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that 
officials employed them.  
 
Ireland has a low incarceration rate (65 inmates per 100,000 
population), and the prison regime is generally liberal.  However, the 
physical infrastructure of many prisons is barely adequate:  facilities 
are plagued by chronic overcrowding, requiring doubling up in many 
single-person cells.  Almost all of the country's 12 prisons are housed 
in very old buildings that were built originally for other uses; as a 
result, less than half the cells have toilets and running water.  The 
medical facilities and the standard of hygiene at Mountjoy prison, the 
country's largest prison, were recently described by the prison's 
visiting committee as "totally unsatisfactory."  There is no separate 
prison facility for the small number of women inmates, and no 
segregation of juveniles (persons 17 to 20 years of age) from adult 
prisoners.  The law also allows those ages 15 and 16 to be sent to adult 
prison if a court determines that they are "unruly," although in 
practice, that happens infrequently.   
 
Since last year's cease-fire by the IRA, the Government has granted 
early release to 36 "Republican" paramilitary prisoners.  Some 42 
"subversive" prisoners remain in custody at a special facility in 
Portlaoise prison.  Conditions for these inmates are the same, if not 
better, than those for the general prison population.  A handful of 
prisoners who belong to a fringe Republican group (the Irish National 
Liberation Army--INLA) conducted a short hunger strike to protest what 
they considered to be unequal treatment compared to other Republican 
inmates, but this was quickly defused.  Even if most of the remaining 
Republican prisoners are released early as part of the Northern Ireland 
peace process, the number involved is too small to have an appreciable 
impact on the prison overcrowding problem. 
 
In July the Government ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the 
Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which could actually exacerbate the 
overcrowding problem.  The number of potential transfers to Ireland is 
far higher than the number of potential transfers out.  While there are 
about 180 foreign nationals in Irish jails, there are an estimated 600 
Irish nationals eligible to return to Ireland under the Convention. 
 
In June 1994, the Government published a 5-year plan for dealing with 
the prison overcrowding problem, entitled "The Management of Offenders."  
But human rights observers are skeptical that the Government's plan will 
lead to the end of the present chronic overcrowding or to any radical 
improvement.  Due to a budget shortfall, the Government in July 
postponed plans to build two new prisons to address these problems. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution stipulates that no person shall be deprived of personal 
liberty without due process under the law.  A detainee has the right to 
petition the High Court, which is required to order release unless it 
can be shown that the person is being detained in accordance with the 
law.  Under the 1984 Criminal Justice Act, the maximum period of 
detention for questioning in most cases is 12 hours--plus a possible 
extension of 8 hours overnight to allow a detainee to sleep.   
 
Detention without charge is permitted for up to 48 hours, however, in 
cases covered by the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act.  This Act 
allows police to arrest and detain for questioning anyone suspected of 
committing a "scheduled offense," i.e., one involving firearms, 
explosives, or membership in an unlawful organization.  Although the 
stated purpose of the Act is to "prevent actions and conduct calculated 
to undermine public order and the authority of the state," it is not 
restricted to subversive offenses.  Therefore, the police have broad 
arrest and detention powers in any case involving firearms. 
 
The Act also provides for the indefinite detention, or internment, 
without trial of any person who is engaged in activities which are 
"prejudicial to the preservation of public peace and order or to the 
security of the state."  While this power has not been invoked since the 
late 1950's, the Government could do so by simply issuing a 
proclamation. 
 
There are no provisions for the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act to 
be renewed annually; it continues indefinitely.  The Government, 
however, has pledged to "carefully review all legislation and court 
arrangements associated with the management of the conflict in the last 
25 years." 
 
At the same time, the Government is moving to broaden the circumstances 
under which extended detention without charge is allowed.  In July it 
approved counter-narcotics proposals which include a provision for 
detention for up to 7 days in cases involving drug trafficking.  To hold 
a suspected drug trafficker for more than 48 hours, however, the police 
would have to seek a judge's approval.  Legislation  
implementing this new measure is expected in early 1996. 
 
The authorities do not impose exile. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the courts 
are independent in practice.  The Constitution also provides for a fair 
public trial, and this is honored by the legal system.   
 
Jury trial is the norm.  The accused generally may choose his or her 
attorney.  For indigents, the State assumes the cost of counsel.  Judges 
are appointed by the President on the advice of the Government.  The 
judicial system includes 23 district courts, 8 circuit courts, the High 
Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the Supreme Court.  Most 
criminal cases are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, a 
State official with semiautonomous status.   
 
However, the Constitution explicitly allows "special courts" to be 
created when "ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective 
administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and 
order."  In 1972, under the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act, the 
Government set up a nonjury "Special Criminal Court" (SCC) to try the 
"scheduled offenses," i.e., ones involving firearms, explosives, or 
membership in an unlawful organization.  Largely a reaction to the 
spillover of paramilitary violence from Northern Ireland, the SCC has 
been justified over the years as addressing the problem of jury 
intimidation in cases involving defendants with suspected paramilitary 
links.   
 
Despite the cessation of paramilitary violence in 1994, the SCC remains 
in place and continues to be used.  Far fewer cases are handled by the 
SCC than during the "troubles,' but it has been used in 1995 to deal 
with narcotics traffickers and other offenses deemed threatening to the 
State.  In 1995 at least nine persons have been convicted by the SCC.  
In addition to the "scheduled offenses," the Director of Public 
Prosecutions can have any case tried by the Special Criminal Court by 
simply certifying that the ordinary courts are "inadequate" to deal with 
it.  In October the High Court rejected a challenge to the continued 
existence of the Special Criminal Court and upheld the Director of 
Public Prosecution's discretion to bring any case it chooses before the 
Court. 
 
In lieu of a jury, the Special Criminal Court usually sits as a three-
judge panel.  Its 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.  
In 1994, for example, Paul Walsh was convicted of IRA membership by the 
Court on the basis of a chief superintendent's opinion and his 
possession of freely available posters and books and a notebook in which 
he had written:  "Hi ho, hi ho, I am a Provo.  I work all day for the 
IRA."  Sessions of the SCC are usually public, but the judge may exclude 
certain persons other than journalists.  Appeals from the SCC are only 
allowed on points of law or against the sentenced imposed.   
 
There were no reports of political prisoners.  
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
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.  This is fully honored 
by the Government. 
 
The Constitution currently provides that the State shall enact no law 
permitting divorce, but a referendum to remove this ban passed by a 
narrow margin on November 24.  The High Court is to consider a challenge 
to the validity of the referendum in 1996.  If the results are upheld, 
the Government plans to introduce legislation in 1996 allowing courts to 
grant divorces.   
 
Article 40 of the Constitution requires the State to 
"...respect...defend and vindicate..." the right to life of the unborn, 
"with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother."  But in 
1992, following the controversial case of a 14-year-old rape victim who 
was barred from traveling to the United Kingdom for an abortion, voters 
approved constitutional amendments specifying that the State, in 
protecting the unborn, could not limit travel to other countries, or 
limit access to information relating to services lawfully available in 
other countries.  An abortion information bill implementing the new 
constitutional provision became law in 1995.  The law draws a 
distinction between "information" and "referral," prohibiting any doctor 
or agency from making an appointment at a foreign abortion clinic on 
behalf of a woman.  The law also prohibits the provision of abortion 
information by billboards, public notices, or unsolicited leaflets. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides individuals with the right to "express freely 
their convictions and opinions."  Freedom of the press, however, is 
subject to the qualification that it not "undermine public order or 
morality or the authority of the state."  Publication or utterance of 
"blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter" is prohibited.  While the 
press, in practice, operates freely, the 1961 Defamation Act (which puts 
the onus on newspapers and periodicals accused of libel to prove 
defamatory words are true) and the 1963 Official Secrets  
 
Act (which gives the State wide scope to prosecute unauthorized 
disclosures of sensitive government information) are believed to result 
in some self-censorship.  In December a newspaper was found guilty by 
the Dublin district court of breaching the Official Secrets Act.  The 
newspaper and its reporter were fined for publishing confidential police 
information concerning a planned bank robbery after the crime had been 
committed.  The newspaper planned to appeal the verdict.   
 
More than 70 libel actions against newspapers and other publications 
were pending before the courts; the National Newspapers Association of 
Ireland estimated that libel awards and related legal bills cost its 
members about $8 million (5 million Irish pounds) per year.  The 
Government has proposed a freedom of information act to address some of 
these problems.  
 
Broadcasting remains mostly state controlled, but under the 1988 Radio 
and Television Act, private sector broadcasting is growing.  There are 
now several flourishing independent radio stations, and a franchise for 
an independent television station is under negotiation.  A Broadcasting 
Complaints Commission oversees standards and investigates complaints 
about programming.  The 1960 Broadcasting Act empowers the Government to 
prohibit the state-owned radio and television network from broadcasting 
any matter that is "likely to promote or incite to crime or which would 
tend to undermine the authority of the state."  It was on this basis 
that the Government banned Sinn Fein (the legal political front of the 
IRA) from the airwaves from 1971 to 1994. 
 
Films and videos must be screened and classified by the Office of the 
Film Censor before they can be shown or sold.  Distributors must pay a 
fee averaging about $1,600 (1,000 Irish pounds) per film, which is used 
to finance the censor's Office.  Under the 1923 Censorship of Films Act, 
the censor has the authority to cut or ban any film that is "indecent, 
obscene or blasphemous" or which tends to "inculcate principles contrary 
to public morality or subversive of public morality."  There has been a 
diminishing use of this broad power in recent years:  in 1994 only 3 of 
the 343 films reviewed by the censor were banned.  A similarly small 
number of films were prohibited in 1995.  Decisions of the censor can be 
appealed to a nine-member appeal board, but neither the censor nor the 
appeal board is required to hear arguments or evidence in public or to 
state reasons for its decisions. 
 
Books and periodicals are also subject to censorship.  The 1946 
Censorship of Publications Act calls for a five-member board to examine 
publications referred to it by the customs service or a member of the 
general public.  They can also examine books or periodicals on their own 
initiative.  The board can prohibit the sale of any publication that it 
judges to be indecent or obscene.  In 1994, 16 books and 2 periodicals 
were prohibited.   
 
However, the ban on Playboy magazine, which had been in effect  since 
the early 1960's, was lifted in 1995. 
 
Academic freedom is respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to "assemble peaceably 
and without arms" and to form associations and unions.  However, it also 
allows the State to "prevent or control meetings" which are "calculated 
to cause a breach of the peace or to be a danger or nuisance to the 
general public."  Under the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act, it is 
unlawful to hold any public meeting on behalf of, or in support of, an 
illegal organization.  In practice, however, the Government has been 
liberal in allowing public meetings and assemblies, even by groups 
associated with illegal terrorist organizations, such as the IRA.  
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
does not hamper the teaching or practice of any faith.  Even though 
Ireland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, there is no state religion.  
However, almost all primary and secondary schools are denominational, 
managed and controlled by the Catholic Church.  Religious instruction is 
an integral part of the curriculum, but there are provisions for parents 
to exempt their children from such instruction.  The Minister of 
Education published a white paper in 1995 proposing sweeping educational 
reforms, including that schools be brought under state ownership and 
that the number of religious trustees on school boards be reduced. 
 
   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.   
 
Ireland currently has no domestic law dealing with the status of 
refugees or the procedures to be followed when a person applies for 
asylum.  As result, the legal rights and protections for asylum seekers 
and refugees are tenuous. Ireland implements its obligations under the 
1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees on an administrative 
basis.  Specific administrative procedures for the determination of 
refugee status were drawn up in 1985 in consultation with the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees; in 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that these 
procedures were binding on the Minister of Justice.  But as the number 
of asylum seekers has increased (from only 31 in 1990 to 259 in the 
first 9 months of 1995), these administrative procedures have proved 
inadequate.  In particular, there have been complaints of long delays 
and a lack of transparency in decisions concerning refugee status.  The 
Government, however, has moved to address these shortcomings by 
introducing legislation that would put provisions for dealing with 
refugees on a statutory basis. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
The constitutional requirement that parliamentary elections be held at 
least every 7 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 
(House of Representatives)-- the chamber that carries out the main 
legislative functions-- are popularly elected; in the Seanad (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 are underrepresented in government and politics.  Although a woman 
is President, only 22 of the 166 deputies in the Dail and 8 of the 60 
Senators are women.  Of the 22 legislative committees, the only one 
chaired by a woman is the Joint Committee on Women's Rights.  Two of the 
15 government ministers are women, as are 4 of the 17 junior ministers.  
While women participate in all departments of government, they are 
underrepresented at senior levels.  Women hold about 30 percent of all 
public-sector jobs. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The principal independent organization monitoring domestic human rights 
problems, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, operates without 
hindrance from the Government.  The Government is open to investigation 
of human rights abuses by international or other nongovernmental 
organizations. 
 
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.  To address these and other shortcomings in 
Irish civil law, the Government in 1993 created the Department of 
Equality and Law Reform.  The Department is currently drafting an equal 
status bill to prohibit discrimination in employment, education, and in 
the provision of goods, facilities, and services; once adopted into law, 
this legislation will allow Ireland to ratify the U.N. International 
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  
The Constitution, as amended, already forbids state promotion of one 
religion over another and discrimination on the grounds of religious 
profession, belief, or status. 
 
   Women 
 
There have been no systematic studies of violence against women, but 
indications are that it is significant.  Women's Aid, a private 
organization, reported that from January to October it had received more 
than 8,000 phone calls from women claiming abuse compared to 6,000 calls 
for all of 1994.  The Rape Crisis Center reported that it had received 
more than 1,000 phone calls in 1995 from women claiming they had been 
raped.  The Center estimates that only 29 percent of rape victims report 
the crime to police, and that only 17 percent of those go to trial.  A 
1990 act criminalized rape within marriage and provided for free legal 
advice to the victim. 
 
Another indication of the extent of violence against women is the number 
of applications for barring orders.  In 1994 there were approximately 
4,400 applications for orders to bar the husband from the family home.  
The Government in 1995 introduced a domestic violence bill that would 
strengthen barring and protection orders and that would give the police 
new powers of arrest to deal with these cases.  
 
Discrimination against women in the workplace is unlawful, but 
inequalities persist regarding pay and promotions in both the public and 
the private sectors.  Working women are also hampered by the lack of 
adequate 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.  One of the recommendations was achieved in 1994 
when the Maternity Protection Act was passed, providing a woman 14 weeks 
of maternity leave and the right to return to her job. 
 
The Anti-Discrimination (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 
implementation.  The number of cases brought to the agency has fallen in 
recent years, but progress in eliminating the differential in earnings 
has been modest.  In 1995 the hourly industrial wage for women was 60 
percent of that received by men, and weekly earnings of women averaged 
68 percent of the weekly pay of men. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government is strongly committed to the welfare and rights of 
children, as demonstrated by its ongoing implementation of the 1991 
Child Care Act.  Education is compulsory for children age 6 to 15 years.  
Among other things, the Act places a statutory duty on government health 
boards to identify and help children who are not receiving adequate care 
and gives the police increased powers to remove a child where there is 
an immediate and serious risk to health or welfare.  The Minister of 
State (junior minister) for Health has special responsibility for 
children's policy, including implementation of the Child Care Act; by 
the end of 1995, only parts of the Act remained to be implemented.  The 
Status of Children Act of 1987 abolished the concept of illegitimacy and 
provided for equal rights for children in all legal proceedings. 
 
In recent years, sexual abuse of children has been receiving increased 
media attention; the number of reported physical abuse cases is also 
rising.  Surveys suggest that 12 to 15 percent of children experience 
physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.  In the wake of recent revelations 
that the Catholic Church did not inform authorities of several instances 
of sexual child abuse by clergymen, the Government is considering making 
the reporting of any suspected child abuse mandatory. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
An estimated 15 percent of the adult population are disabled;  80 
percent of those are unemployed.  There is currently no legislation to 
protect disabled persons from discrimination in employment or in other 
matters or to improve their access to buildings or transportation.  Few 
public or private buildings have facilities for the disabled.  A 
commission on the status of people with disabilities is scheduled to 
report in April, 1996.  The Government is expected to draw on its 
recommendations in drafting the Equal Status Bill.  
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
There are some 25,000 nomadic people within Ireland who regard 
themselves as a distinct ethnic group called "travelers,"  roughly 
analogous to the Gypsies of continental Europe.  The "traveling" 
community has its own history, culture, and language.  The travelers' 
emphasis on self-employment and the extended family distinguish them 
from the rest of Irish society.  In 1991 a European Parliament committee 
reported that in Ireland, "the single most discriminated against ethnic 
group is the 'traveling people.'"  That remained true in 1995. 
 
Travelers are regularly denied access to premises, goods, facilities, 
and services; many restaurants and pubs, for example, have a policy of 
not serving them.  Despite national school rules which provide that no 
child may be refused admission on account of social position, travelers 
frequently experience difficulties in enrolling their children in 
school.  Of an estimated 3,500 traveler families, more than 1,000 are 
residing on roadsides or on temporary sites without toilets, 
electricity, or washing facilities. 
 
Irish society's general hostility toward travelers is reflected in 
occasional acts of violence.  In September 1994, a traveler family in 
county Cork had their caravan turned over and destroyed by a group of 
men who were reportedly hired by local citizens to drive the family out.  
In a similar attack in October 1994, a traveler family of 14 in county 
Wicklow had their car and trailers fire-bombed by local residents.  In 
June 1995, residents in county Westmeath blocked one of the country's 
main roads to protest a decision to move a traveler family into their 
neighborhood. 
 
The tense relations between the traveling community and the rest of 
Irish society led the Government in 1993 to establish a task force to 
study the problem and make recommendations.  One of the main 
recommendations of the task force, which issued its report in July 1995, 
was that "the distinct culture and identity of the traveler community be 
recognized and taken into account," especially in the context of the 
forthcoming equal status legislation.  While the Government has 
consistently condemned violence against travellers and urged local 
authorities to provide adequate halting sites as required under the 1988 
Housing Act, it has been slow to enact laws prohibiting discrimination 
against travelers.  The traveling community is specifically addressed in 
the 1989 Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, but to date, there 
have been no prosecutions under that law.   
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The right to join a union is provided for by law, as is the right to 
refrain from joining. 
 
About 55 percent of workers in the private and public sectors are 
members of unions.  Police and military personnel are prohibited from 
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 this provision 
through the Department of Enterprise and Employment.  In 1995 the number 
of strikes was significantly down from past years. 
 
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) represents 66 unions 
(including 20 in Northern Ireland).  Both the ICTU 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. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Labor unions have full freedom to organize and to engage in collective 
bargaining.  The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act of 1974 and the 
Employment Equality Act of 1977 make the Employment Equality Agency 
responsible for oversight of allegations of antiunion 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 found guilty of antiunion discrimination, including the 
reinstatement of workers fired for union activities. 
 
Most terms and conditions of employment are determined through 
collective bargaining, in the context of a national economic pact 
negotiated every 3 years by "the social partners," i.e., representatives 
of unions, employers, farmers, and the Government.  The current 3-year 
agreement, entitled "The Program for Competitiveness and Work," expires 
in 1996.  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 is an export processing zone at Shannon airport that is subject to 
the same labor laws as the rest of the country. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Forced labor is prohibited by law and does not occur. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
By law children are required to attend school until the age of 15.  The 
employment of children under age 15 is generally prohibited by the 1977 
Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, but those age 14 are 
allowed to do light nonindustrial work during school holidays with the 
written permission of their parents.  They are limited to working 7 
hours per day and 35 hours per week.  For children age 15, the law 
limits work time to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.  For those 
age 16 or 17, the limits are 9 hours per day and 45 hours per week.  The 
Department of Enterprise and Employment effectively enforces these 
provisions. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
There is no general minimum wage law, but there are several minimum 
rates of pay applicable to specific industrial sectors, mainly those 
with 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 Department of Enterprise and Employment 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 regarding enforcement of 
these laws.  Recent regulations provide that employees who find 
themselves in a situation that presents a "serious, imminent and 
unavoidable risk" may absent themselves without the employer being able 
to take disciplinary action.   
 
(###)

[end of document]

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