Israel reports ‘rise in anti-Semitism’ in Ireland to UN committee

Comments made during periodic review of Ireland’s human rights record

Ireland should take “concrete steps” to combat anti-Semitism, Israel has told a United Nations review of Ireland’s human rights record.

In a brief submission to a session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Israeli representative said she welcomed Ireland’s membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance organisation (IHRA).

However, Israel, the representative said, “remains concerned that anti-Semitism and hate speech are on the rise, including some declarations by politicians, even in office, and their spread through social media”.

She recommended that Ireland adopts the IHRA’s working definition on anti-Semitism, and “takes concrete steps to combat anti-Semitism and hate speech at all levels, online and offline”.


The comments were made during a "periodic review" of Ireland's human rights record before the Geneva-based commission, and come in the wake of a highly critical report last month on anti-Semitism in Ireland by researcher David Collier.

In his address to the session, which was held remotely, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman said Ireland’s “robust and independent domestic civil society and non-governmental sector” keeps a spotlight on key human rights issues.

Changing Ireland’s abortion laws after a referendum in 2018 was one of the most significant developments in human rights in Ireland in recent years, he said.

A new strategy launched in 2017 will bring “meaningful change and progress” for the Traveller and Roma communities, and work on a new strategy on domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence will “radically improve services and supports for victims,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman said the Government has developed a plan setting out 22 actions that will take account of all of the recommendations of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission, “as well as the priority needs and concerns of survivors and their families”.

Legislative proposals will be introduced next year to strengthen Ireland’s equality legislation, including enhancing gender identity protections, and specifically seeking to strengthen protections for transgender people, he said.

“Developments are also underway in addressing hate crime and hate speech,” he told the council review.

Ireland was committed to providing refuge to those seeking protection due to war, persecution and migratory pressures, with the ending of direct provision being a key commitment.

“We are moving to a new mode, which will be explicitly centred on a human-rights approach, and delivered in cooperation with civil society. The new model will give asylum seekers targeted services focused on their needs.”

In response to the situation in Afghanistan, the minister said, Ireland had “offered protection to human rights defenders, LGBTI+ and gender equality activists, journalists as well as judges. To date, 506 people have been offered programme refugee places in Ireland.”

The session included short observations from a wide range of countries on a report on Ireland, prepared in August of this year as part of the periodic national reviews carried out by the UN body.

Among those who made observations was a representative for Afghanistan who expressed concern about Ireland’s failure to ratify conventions in the areas of torture and the rights of refugees.

A significant number of the national representatives, including the representative of the United States, urged Ireland to do more in the area of combating human trafficking and securing convictions.

Concerns were expressed by a number of contributors about racial discrimination and racial profiling, with the Chinese representative expressing concern about a rise “xenophobic violence” in Ireland and politicians making statements that included “hate speech”.

A representative for the State of Palestine recommended that Ireland continue efforts to ensure that companies did not impact on the enjoyment of human rights in conflict areas, “which include the situation of foreign occupation.”

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent