Ireland’s human rights watchdog handled almost 1,800 queries last year with its chief commissioner claiming 2016 was “a year in which forms of hate and intolerance took centre stage”.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) launched its annual report which outlined its role in assisting people who claimed they were victims of discrimination or denied basic rights.
Activity included legal interventions and support, and dealing with issues involving disability, access to suitable accommodation, and racism.
In the report’s foreword, IHREC Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: “One cannot ignore the implications of the largely unanticipated regional and global events relevant to human rights and equality in 2016 — a year in which forms of hate and intolerance took centre stage, creating significant uncertainty and often serving to distract from apparently less worthy public policy developments at home which render people more vulnerable, especially those of least advantage.”
She said Ireland had a “laudable record” on human rights and this needed to continue and she noted the “significant increase” in amicus curiae activity or ‘friend of the court’ activity last year, and in other areas such as legal assistance. She said there were “encouraging signs of a political emphasis, however incremental, on human rights and equality”.
One key case in which IHREC was involved was a challenge to support the constitutional right of people in direct provision to seek employment, which resulted in a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month clarifying the right of individuals to seek employment. Just this week Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he would be forming an inter-departmental task force to explore the issues associated with the ruling ahead of a date back before the Supreme Court later this year.
Also last year decisions were made by the Commission in relation to 43 requests from members of the public for legal assistance under section 40 of the Act, while four sets of legal proceedings in which the Commission was providing legal representation to individuals were completed, such as a case in which IHREC granted legal assistance to a family forced to flee their home, and county council area after being subjected to racial harassment and violence by individuals. Last year the family were offered, and accepted, social housing in the relevant county council area.
Three other cases resulted in settlements being paid, including in the case of an EU national who was subject to severe labour exploitation at a family-run B&B.
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