Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law. Most persons convicted received prison sentences of five to 12 years. According to the most recent report of director of public prosecution, in 2014 there were 82 prosecutions for sexual offenses, with an 89 percent conviction rate. The law criminalizes domestic violence. It authorizes prosecution of a violent family member and provides victims with “safety orders,” which prohibit a person from engaging in violent actions or threats, and “barring orders,” (restraining order) which prohibit an offender from entering the family home for up to three years. Anyone found guilty of violating a barring or protection order may receive a fine of up to 4,000 euros ($4,400), a prison sentence of 12 months, or both. The law covers cohabiting couples, including same-sex couples and parents with a child in common, but not individuals in intimate relationships who have not cohabited. Advocates criticized the government for the lengthy waiting periods necessary to obtain barring orders, including interim barring orders.
The government permitted domestic violence to be included among factors affecting child custody decisions.
The November 2015 EU Victims Directive commits the government to undertake key actions but was pending formal enactment into law. Criminal justice agencies began providing some services to victims to comply with the directive.
On January 20, Deputy Prime Minister (Tanaiste) and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald initiated the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, an action plan that focuses on prevention of violence, services to victims, and data gathering. In November the deputy prime minister and the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual, and Gender-Based Violence launched the national awareness campaign “What would you do?” The awareness campaign was a part of the second national strategy, and the government secured 950,000 euros ($1,006,000) to fund the campaign due to run from 2016 to 2021 to inform and change attitudes and educate the public about domestic violence.
Lack of data made it difficult to analyze the scale of domestic abuse and sexual violence in the country. In a 2014 report, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights estimated that 26 percent of Irish women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15. According to the NGO Safe Ireland, domestic violence support services answered 48,888 helpline calls in 2014.
A 2014 Garda Inspectorate review found that police did not always correctly record domestic violence cases. While the police have a domestic violence policy in place, there was little evidence that it was effectively implemented. The inspectorate also found an inconsistent approach to dealing with victims, with some Garda displaying negative attitudes towards domestic violence by referring to calls as “problematic, time consuming, and a waste of resources.” In 2015 the Garda commissioner established the Garda National Protective Services Bureau with specially trained officers to deal with sex crimes, domestic violence, and trafficking in persons who were also to provide guidance and assistance to police throughout the country.
NGOs expressed continued concern that funding levels, which had been cut during austerity and not fully restored, would limit support services for victims of family violence. They were also concerned about the lack of a mechanism to provide safe living quarters for migrant women experiencing domestic violence.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C for women and girls. The maximum penalty for performing FGM/C in the country or taking a girl to another country to undergo the procedure is a fine of up to 10,000 euros ($11,000), imprisonment for up to 14 years, or both. During the year Garda investigated a possible case of FGM of a young girl and arrested a man in Dublin for questioning. Police and other government authorities, as well as NGOs, were on heightened alert during school holidays. Teachers began receiving training in detecting signs that a child was in danger of FGM/C and were legally obligated to report such instances to police or child protection services.
Sexual Harassment: The law obliges employers to prevent sexual harassment and prohibits employers from dismissing an employee for making a complaint of sexual harassment. Authorities effectively enforced the law when sexual harassment was reported. The penalties can include an order requiring equal treatment in the future, as well as compensation for the victim up to a maximum of two years’ pay or 40,000 euros ($44,000), whichever was greater. The law prohibits harassment and sexual harassment not only in employment but also in the supply of, and access to, goods and services.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The constitution gives equal status to the mother and the unborn child. In 2013 the country enacted the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act to permit abortion in limited circumstances such as real and substantive risk to the life of the pregnant women. Some international and national organizations raised concerns about the lack of legal and medical clarity in implementing the act. Under the act procuring or assisting with an abortion in the country is a criminal offense with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, although the statute had not been used. The IHREC highlighted concerns that the law disproportionately penalizes poor women, female asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants because they were unable to travel abroad to obtain an abortion. The Irish Family Planning Association expressed concerns with barriers stemming from fear of prosecution, which could decrease access to emergency health care services to deal with complications arising from abortions.
In June the UN Human Rights Committee found that a woman who had to choose between carrying a fatally ill fetus to term or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment as a result of the country’s legal prohibitions on abortion.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men. Inequalities in pay and promotions, although prohibited by law, persisted in both the public and private sectors.
Birth Registration: A person born after 2004 on the island of Ireland (including Northern Ireland) is automatically a citizen if at least one parent was an Irish citizen, a British citizen, a resident of either Ireland or Northern Ireland entitled to reside in either without time limit, or a legal resident of Ireland or Northern Ireland for three of the four years preceding the child’s birth (excluding time spent as a student or an asylum seeker). Authorities register births immediately.
Child Abuse: The law criminalizes engaging in, or attempting to engage in, a sexual act with a child younger than 17. The maximum sentence in such cases is five years in prison, which can increase to 10 years if the accused is a person in authority, such as a parent or teacher. The law additionally proscribes any person from engaging in, or attempting to engage in, a sexual act with a juvenile younger than 15; the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, provided child protection, early intervention, and family support services. The government also provided funding to NGOs that carried out information campaigns against child abuse as well as those who provided support services to victims.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 years. Persons under 18 must obtain the permission of the Circuit Family Court or the High Court to marry.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information in women’s section above.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. Conviction of trafficking in children and taking a child from home for sexual exploitation carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. A person convicted of meeting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation faces a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consensual sex is 17.
The law provides for a fine of up to 31,000 euros ($34,100), a prison sentence of up to 14 years, or both for a person convicted of allowing a child to be used for pornography. For producing, distributing, printing, or publishing child pornography, the maximum penalty is 1,900 euros ($2,100), 12 months’ imprisonment, or both. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children criticized these penalties as too lenient.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to the 2011 census, the Jewish community numbered 1,984 persons. In November there were media reports of a man facing charges of making threats to kill or cause serious harm. During an incident the man made anti-Semitic threats and behaved erratically.
On January 24, the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland in association with the Department of Justice and Equality, the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration, and Dublin City Council organized a national Holocaust Day Memorial commemoration in which the prime minister, the foreign minister, other senior government ministers, and key public figures participated.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. The government effectively enforced these provisions and implemented laws and programs to give persons with disabilities access to buildings, information, and communications. The National Disability Authority is the independent state agency responsible for setting and implementing disability standards, as well as directing disability policy. At the end of 2015, the prime minister launched the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities 2015-2024, which established a minister of state for disability issues, a junior ministerial role, within the Departments of Social Protection, Justice and Equality, and Health.
There were instances of employment discrimination against persons with disabilities. Children with disabilities generally had full access to educational options at all levels. In a practice condemned by children’s rights and mental health groups, authorities continued to admit minors to adult psychiatric units, with 95 reported admissions of children to adult units, according to the 2015 annual report of the Mental Health Commission. In July RTE (the state broadcaster) Investigations Unit uncovered failings in care services for the intellectually disabled. An unpublished 2013 internal Health Service Executive report leaked to RTE Investigates suggested that the state’s care services had repeatedly failed hundreds of adults with intellectual disabilities.
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes color, nationality, ethnicity, and national origins, and the government enforced the law. Nevertheless, societal discrimination and violence against immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities remained a problem. The country’s African population and Muslim community in particular experienced racially motivated physical violence, intimidation, graffiti, and verbal slurs. According to the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), the number of reported racist incidents rose by 11 percent in 2015 to 240. NGOs reported that immigrants, particularly those of African descent, experienced unemployment disproportionately during the economic downturn.
During the year the ICI, the National Transport Authority, and nationwide public transport providers launched the #StopRacism campaign, celebrating diversity and encouraging witnesses to report racist incidents. The national police supported the campaign, as did the specialized Garda Racial and Intercultural Office dedicated to working with victims of racist incidents.
According to the 2011 census, 29,495 persons identified themselves as members of an indigenous group known as Travellers, with a distinct history and culture; however, the government does not officially recognize them as a distinct ethnic group. Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s Chief Commissioner Emily Logan raised concerns over the lack of progress on Traveller ethnicity recognition since the country’s first UN Universal Period Review in 2011. Despite antidiscrimination laws, Travellers continued to face societal discrimination and denial of access to education, employment, housing, sanitation, and basic services. Life expectancy for Traveller men was approximately 15 years less and for Traveller women 11.5 years less than that of the general population. The advocacy group Pavee Point criticized the Department of Health for not having convened the National Traveller Health Advisory Committee since 2012.
Advocacy groups criticized reductions in the Traveller accommodation budget, which was cut by 90 percent between 2008 and 2015. The law obliges local officials to develop suitable accommodation sites for Travellers and to solicit Traveller input. Traveller NGOs asserted many communities provided Travellers with housing that was unsuitable for their nomadic lifestyle or provided transient caravan camping sites that were unsafe and lacking basic services such as sanitary facilities, electricity, and water. Pavee Point criticized the absence of an agency to address the urgent need for improvements in housing and the implementation of existing policies in health, education, and employment.
During the year the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights determined that the country’s law and practice violated the human rights of Travellers on the following grounds: inadequate conditions at many Traveller sites; insufficient provision of accommodation for Travellers; inadequate legal safeguards for Travellers threatened with eviction; and evictions carried out without necessary safeguards.
There was little data on Roma living in the country. The Irish census identifies persons by their nationality, not ethnicity, splitting Roma into national categories such as Slovakian, Romanian, or Hungarian. Pavee Point estimated that approximately 5,000 Roma lived in the country. Many Roma in the country cited discrimination in access to education, health services, housing, and employment. NGOs were critical of the Habitual Residence Condition, saying it was an obstacle for Roma to access social protection and services. NGOs also claimed Roma experienced prejudice, discrimination, and negative stereotyping.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation with respect to employment, goods, services, and education. The law does not include gender identity as an explicit category, but the courts interpreted it as prohibiting discrimination against transgender persons.
A 2015 law made same sex marriage legal in the country. Also in 2015 the country established a process for enabling transgender individuals to achieve full legal recognition of their preferred gender and allow them to acquire a new birth certificate reflecting this change. Individuals older than 18 can self-declare, while 16- and 17-year olds can also apply for legal recognition based on their preferred gender.
The 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act is the country’s legislation to combat incidents of hate speech. Civil liberties and civil society organizations criticized its effectiveness on the grounds that no specific legislation existed to deal with other forms of hate crimes or to ensure that prejudice was taken into account as an aggravating factor when sentencing criminals.
In July a group assaulted a man and subjected him to verbal homophobic abuse. The victim made a formal complaint to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission concerning the way investigating officers treated him and his case. He alleged undue delays by the police, demeaning questions from the investigating officers, and a failure to secure his personal data in written correspondence.