UN committee raises numerous human rights issues with Ireland

Government to be questioned at hearings in Geneva next July

Survivors of Magdalene laundries: The Government has been asked to explain the lack of an independent inquiry into the laundries. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Survivors of Magdalene laundries: The Government has been asked to explain the lack of an independent inquiry into the laundries. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


The Government has been challenged by the UN Human Rights Committee on what measures it has taken “to prohibit all corporal punishment of children in all settings”.

It has also been asked to explain the narrowness of abortion provision in the new Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, and the lack of an independent inquiry into the Magdalene laundries. Ireland’s treatment of asylum seekers and Travellers has also been raised, as have the issues of overcrowded prisons and why members of the judiciary must take a religious oath.

The committee queried measures taken by the State to ensure Garda co-operation with the Garda Ombudsman and, where Roma communities in Ireland are concerned, it asked the Government to “please clarify specific measures taken to ensure their . . . right to be protected against arbitrary interference with their family life”.

On women it asked for measures to be taken “to meet the 40 per cent target in all State board positions as outlined in the Programme for a National Government 2011- 2016”.

Detailed list of issues

The committee yesterday published a detailed list of issues it plans to raise with the Government at a hearing in Geneva next July. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed last night the Government had received the queries and would be responding to them prior to the hearing, which begins on July 7th.

In the document published yesterday the committee sought clarification on whether the State intended to broaden access to abortion in Ireland “including when the pregnancy poses a risk to the health of the pregnant woman, where the pregnancy is the result of a crime, such as rape or incest, cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, or when it is established that the foetus will not survive outside the womb”.


The committee

sought clarification on circumstances in which the Director of Public Prosecutions “may authorise prosecutions, and against whom” where abortion is concerned.

It asked the Government to clarify when it would “establish a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into the abuse perpetrated in the Magdalene laundries as recommended by the Irish Human Rights Commission”. It sought information on “how the redress scheme proposed by Mr Justice John Quirke will be monitored by an independent body, and how the appeals process would operate.

It asked the Government about measures taken “to amend the constitutional provision requiring a religious oath from judges to allow for a choice of a non-religious declaration” and about measures taken to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution and the Defamation Act 2009.

The committee sought information on steps taken by the State “to ensure that the rights of children of minority religions or non-faith are also recognised in the Education Act 1998” as well as for “the number of non-denominational primary schools that have been established”.

It has asked for a timeline for the closure of St Patrick’s Institution and for statistics “on the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment filed against prison officers, the number of investigations instituted, and the number of prosecutions and convictions imposed”.