The Irish Times view on human rights in Ireland: a work in progress

The number of cases taken under Equal Status Acts rose by 40 per cent last year

The State and its agencies "remain wedded to approaches that do not work" in direct provision for asylum seekers and in social housing, according to Emily Logan of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

This is not only about discrimination against asylum seekers and migrant workers. It is much wider than that, embracing disabled persons, single-parent families and those reliant of welfare to pay their rent.

All of these groups experience discrimination in various forms, from difficulties in opening bank accounts, to securing employment, to being rejected as suitable tenants by landlords.

Court action and political pressure are the approaches favoured by Logan to force regulatory and legal change

The number of cases taken under Equal Status Acts rose by 40 per cent last year and involved three major areas of public concern: persistent discrimination on the grounds of disability, housing assistance and race.

In its annual report, the chief commissioner indicated that discrimination within the housing sector will remain the primary focus for the organisation during the coming three years.

Because of the acute housing shortage for purchase and for rent, along with growing social housing waiting lists, the IHREC will have its work cut out to make any appreciable difference in this essential area. Court action and political pressure are the approaches favoured by Logan to force regulatory and legal change and to combat what she described as “increasing levels and types of discrimination”.

Now four years in existence as a statutory body, the Commission has had a number of successes. A Supreme Court action struck down the ban on asylum seekers working here, and its influence on opposition parties has grown.

Further court actions are under way involving the provision of legal assistance on grounds of age discrimination, disability, housing supports, family status and membership of the Travelling Community. These cases expose the distance the State has to travel if discrimination and the violation of human rights are to be eliminated.