U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released online from January 1, 1997 to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for current material from the Department of State. Or visit http://2001-2009.state.gov for information from that period. Archive sites are not updated, so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
U.S. Department of State

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Ireland Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.

Blue Bar

IRELAND

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a long tradition of orderly transfer of power. The government consists of an executive branch headed by a Prime Minister, a legislative branch with a bicameral Parliament, and an independent judiciary. The President is directly elected.

The national police are under the effective civilian control of the Minister of Justice and have sole responsibility for internal security. Ireland's principal internal security concern has been to prevent the spillover of terrorist violence from Northern Ireland. With the signing of the Belfast Peace Agreement on April 14, virtually all parties in Northern Ireland acknowledged the goals of democracy, peace, and reconciliation. All paramilitary groups, on both sides of the border, have declared permanent cease-fires, with the exception of the Continuity Irish Republican Army.

Ireland has an open, market-based economy that is highly dependent on international trade. It is a large net recipient of funds from the European Union (EU) designed to raise per capita gross national product to the EU average. Strong economic growth over the past few years has lowered unemployment to 7.2 percent, the lowest in 30 years.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. Human rights problems arise primarily from: Prison overcrowding and substandard facilities; instances of abuse by police and prison officials; the continuation of special arrest and detention authority and the nonjury court; violence and discrimination against women; the abuse of children; the occasional censorship of films, books, and periodicals; and discrimination against asylum seekers and Travellers (an itinerant ethnic community).

As stipulated in the Belfast Peace Agreement, the Government plans to establish an independent human rights commission in 1999, which is to cooperate with a parallel commission to be set up in Northern Ireland. The human rights commissions is to provide information and promote awareness of human rights, comment on human rights draft legislation referred to them by the legislatures, make recommendations to the governments on the adequacy and effectiveness of laws and practices, and initiate court proceedings or provide assistance to individuals doing so.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and security personnel generally did not employ them.

While the mistreatment of persons in police custody is not widespread, a number of cases have been filed by detainees claiming damages for injuries sustained while in police custody. No action had been taken by year's end in the case of two persons held in connection with the murder of a police officer in 1996 who alleged that they had been severely beaten while in police custody and who appeared in court with physical injuries consistent with their allegations (see Section 4). Human rights organizations have called for the establishment of an independent ombudsman or authority to investigate complaints against the police. It would replace the current statutory board, the Garda (Police) Complaints Board, through which Garda authorities internally investigate alleged misconduct by their peers.

Ireland has a low incarceration rate (76 inmates per 100,000 population), and the prison regime is generally liberal. However, the physical infrastructure of many prisons is barely adequate: a number of facilities are plagued by chronic overcrowding, requiring doubling-up in many single-person cells. Many of the country's 14 prisons are very old buildings, and many cells do not have toilets or running water. There are no adequate hospitals on prison grounds; mental health services for prisoners also are inadequate. The Government was in the process of upgrading prison facilities to improve sanitary conditions and to meet statutory health and safety standards. Under the prison building program, almost 700 new cells had been built by year's end, including a new women's prison annex at Mountjoy Prison. A new 400-prisoner facility at Portlaoise also is being planned.

According to the Justice Department, there was one case during the year in which legal proceedings were instituted by a prisoner who alleged mistreatment by prison staff and four in which prisoners alleged negligence of health and safety as a consequence of prison conditions. In two of the latter cases the court did not find in favor of the prisoners in question, and the other two cases were pending at year's end. Prisoners with complaints of this nature have ready access to the courts for redress.

The Government continued to arrest and incarcerate at Portlaoise prison persons involved in paramilitary activity. Conditions for these inmates are the same, if not better, than those for the general prison population.

Domestic and international human rights monitors are permitted to visit prisons without reservation. The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited prisons in September and is to present its report to the Government in 1999.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution stipulates that no person shall be deprived of personal liberty without due process under the law. A detainee has the right to petition the High Court, which is required to

order release unless it can be shown that the person is being detained in accordance with the law. The Criminal Justice Act of 1984 provides for an initial period of detention of 6 hours, with an extension of another 6 hours when a police officer of the rank of superintendent or above so directs, in cases in which there are grounds for believing that such detention is necessary for the proper investigation of an offense. Another extension of 8 hours overnight is possible, to allow a detainee to sleep.

In cases covered by the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act, the initial period of detention without charge is 24 hours on the direction of a police superintendent; detention can be extended another 24 hours. This act allows police to arrest and detain for questioning anyone suspected of committing a "scheduled offense," i.e., one involving firearms, explosives, or membership in an unlawful organization. Although the stated purpose of the act is to "prevent actions and conduct calculated to undermine public order and the authority of the state," it is not restricted to subversive offenses. Therefore, the police have broad arrest and detention powers in any case involving firearms. However, under the terms of the decommissioning law enacted in 1997 in support of the Northern Ireland peace process, proceedings may not be instituted against persons in relation to any offense that may be committed in the course of decommissioning illegally held arms in accordance with an approved arms decommissioning scheme.

The act also provides for the indefinite detention, or internment, without trial of any person who is engaged in activities that are "prejudicial to the preservation of public peace and order or to the security of the state." While this power has not been invoked since the late 1950's, the government could do so by simply issuing a proclamation. There are no provisions for the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act to be renewed; it continues indefinitely.

An amendment to the Offenses Against the State Act of 1939 was enacted in the wake of the Omagh bombing in August. The amended act allows police to detain suspects in certain crimes, usually involving serious offenses with firearms or explosives, for 48 hours, with a possible 24-hour extension if approved by a judge.

The legislation also curtails the right of silence. Under the amendment, if the accused was informed of the consequences of remaining silent to questions regarding his whereabouts, associations, or actions, then the accused's silence may be used as corroboration of guilt. An accused person's failure to defend against accusations of membership in an illicit organization also may be used as corroboration of guilt. However, the accused cannot be convicted based solely on his refusal to speak.

Membership in or leadership of an illicit organization carries a possible life sentence under the new amendment (illegal organizations are defined by the 1939 Offenses Act). The word of a police superintendent can be used as corroboration of membership. Collecting information to aid in a serious offense carries a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment or a fine. Withholding information that could prevent a "serious" offense or that could aid in the apprehension or conviction of a perpetrator also is illegal, with a penalty of up to 5 years' imprisonment and a fine.

While the amendment had yet to be used in the courts, there was concern that its broad powers could encourage abuse, and even its supporters refer to it as "draconian." The amended act is to expire in June 2000 without specific parliamentary reauthorization.

The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act of 1996 permits the detention without charge for up to 7 days in cases involving drug trafficking. To hold a suspected drug trafficker for more than 48 hours, however, the police must seek a judge's approval.

Following approval in 1996 of a referendum calling for stricter bail laws, legislation was enacted in 1997 that is designed to allow a court to refuse bail to a person charged with a serious offense where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of another serious offense. A schedule of serious offenses is contained in the bill; the offense must be one that carries a penalty of 5 years' imprisonment or more. However, by year's end the Justice Minister had not signed a statutory order that would allow the courts to implement the law's provisions. The lack of accommodations for prisoners was cited as the reason for the delay.

The authorities do not impose exile.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government respects this provision in practice. The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.

The judicial system includes a district court with 23 districts, a circuit court with 8 circuits, the High Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the Supreme Court. The President appoints judges on the advice of the government.

Criminal cases are prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, a state official with independent status. Jury trial is the norm. The accused generally may choose an attorney. For indigent defendants, the state assumes the cost of counsel.

However, the Constitution explicitly allows "special courts" to be created when "ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order." In 1972, under the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act, the Government set up a nonjury "Special Criminal Court" (SCC) to try "scheduled offenses" (see Section 1.d.). Largely a reaction to the spillover of paramilitary violence from Northern Ireland, the SCC has been justified over the years as addressing the problem of jury intimidation in cases involving defendants with suspected paramilitary links. The continued need for the SCC is being kept under review by the Government.

During the first half of 1998, the SCC indicted 24 persons and held 12 trials. For all of 1997 there were 26 indictments and 14 trials in the SCC. In addition to "scheduled offenses," the Director of Public Prosecutions can have any nonscheduled offense tried by the SCC if he believes that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order and so certifies in writing.

In lieu of a jury, the SCC always sits as a three-judge panel. Its verdicts are by majority vote. Rules of evidence are essentially the same as in regular courts, except that the sworn statement of a police chief superintendent identifying the accused as a member of an illegal organization is accepted as prima facie evidence. Sessions of the SCC are usually public, but the judge may exclude certain persons other than journalists. Appeals of SCC decisions are allowed in certain circumstances.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

People imprisoned for crimes related to the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland whose organizations have declared permanent cease-fires and committed themselves to work through peaceful, democratic means are being released under the terms of the Belfast Peace Agreement. All releases are to be accomplished within 2 years, although releases on a more accelerated basis were expected.

f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The Supreme Court has affirmed that, although not specifically provided for in the Constitution, the inviolability of personal privacy, family, and home must be respected in law and practice. This ruling is fully honored by the Government.

In 1996 the High Court upheld a referendum that removed the ban on divorce. The Government enacted implementing legislation allowing courts to grant divorces under certain circumstances.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides individuals with the right to "express freely their convictions and opinions." Freedom of the press, however, is subject to the qualification that it not "undermine public order or morality or the authority of the state." Publication or utterance of "blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter" is prohibited. While the press in practice operates freely, the 1961 Defamation Act (which puts the onus on newspapers and periodicals accused of libel to prove that defamatory words are true) and the 1963 Official Secrets Act (which gives the State wide scope to prosecute unauthorized disclosures of sensitive government information) are believed to result in some self-censorship.

Broadcasting remains mostly state controlled, but private sector broadcasting is growing. There are 21 independent radio stations, and an independent television station began broadcasting in September. However, expanded access to cable and satellite television is lessening dramatically the relative influence of state-controlled broadcasting. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission oversees standards and investigates complaints about programming. The 1960 Broadcasting Act empowers the Government to prohibit the state-owned radio and television network from broadcasting any matter that is "likely to promote or incite to crime or which would tend to undermine the authority of the state." It was on this basis that the Government banned Sinn Fein (the legal political front of the Irish Republican Army) from the airwaves from 1971 to 1994.

Films and videos must be screened and classified by the Office of the Film Censor before they can be shown or sold. Distributors pay fees to finance the censor's office. Under the 1923 Censorship of Films Act, the censor has the authority to cut or ban any film that is "indecent, obscene or blasphemous" or which tends to "inculcate principles contrary to public morality or subversive of public morality." No theatrical films were banned in 1998, but about 80 videos were banned by the end of September, mainly because of their pornographic content. Decisions of the censor can be appealed to a nine-member appeal board within 3 months, but neither the censor nor the appeal board is required to hear arguments or evidence in public or to state the reasons for its decisions.

Books and periodicals are also subject to censorship. The 1946 Censorship of Publications Act calls for a five-member board to examine publications referred to it by the customs service or a member of the general public. It also can examine books (but not periodicals) on its own initiative. The board can prohibit the sale of any publication that it judges to be indecent or obscene. In 1998 the board banned 15 books and 10 periodicals, compared with 10 books and 89 periodicals in 1997, and 63 books and 43 periodicals in 1996.

Academic freedom is respected.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to "assemble peaceably and without arms" and to form associations and unions. However, it also allows the State to "prevent or control meetings" that are calculated to cause a breach of the peace or to be a danger or nuisance to the general public. Under the 1939 Offenses Against the State Act, it is unlawful to hold any public meeting on behalf of, or in support of, an illegal organization. Although the Government prosecutes and incarcerates persons for mere membership in a terrorist organization, it allows meetings and assemblies by some groups that are associated with illegal terrorist organizations.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government does not hamper the teaching or practice of any faith. Even though Ireland is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, there is no state religion. However, most primary and secondary schools are denominational, and their boards of management are partially controlled by the Catholic Church. Although religious instruction is an integral part of the curriculum, parents may exempt their children from such instruction. There is no discrimination against nontraditional religious groups.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There is complete freedom of movement within the country, as well as freedom to engage in foreign travel, emigration, and voluntary repatriation.

The Government approved a new refugee law in 1996, but it has been implemented only partially and is currently under review. The law put into effect the Dublin Convention of 1990, harmonizing European Union asylum procedures, and it also has made provision for program refugees (those invited by the state to apply for asylum; in 1998, mostly Bosnians and Vietnamese). The law also expressly forbids the forced return of persons to a country where they fear persecution.

Ireland implements its obligations under the 1951 United Nations (U.N.) Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees on an administrative basis. Specific administrative procedures for the determination of refugee status were drawn up in consultation with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and in 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that these procedures were binding on the Minister of Justice. However, as the number of asylum seekers increased (from only 31 in 1990 to over 4,000 in 1998), these administrative procedures proved inadequate. In particular there are complaints of long delays and a lack of transparency in decisions concerning refugee status. There is a backlog of over 6,000 asylum cases. In 1998 the Department of Justice upgraded its asylum division by increasing its staff and moving it into a larger building with more services for asylum seekers.

The Government provided first asylum in almost 200 cases in 1998. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared persecution. The increase in the number of asylum seekers, as well as allegations of racism in dealing with them and the issue of whether they should be allowed to work, led to a public debate on immigration (see Section 5).

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The Constitutional requirement that parliamentary elections be held at least every 7 years has always been met. Suffrage is universal for citizens over the age of 18, and balloting is secret. Several political parties have seats in the bicameral Parliament. Members of the Dail (House of Representatives)--the chamber that carries out the main legislative functions--are popularly elected; in the Seanad (Senate), most members are elected by vocational and university groups, and the others are appointed by the Prime Minister. The President is popularly elected for a 7-year term and is limited to 2 terms. An appointed Council of State serves as an advisory body to the President.

Women are underrepresented in government and politics. Although the President is a woman, only 20 of the 166 deputies in the Dail and 11 of the 60 senators are women. Three of the 15 government ministers are women, as are 2 of the 17 junior ministers. Three women sit on the 20-member High Court; only 1 of the 8 Supreme Court judges is a woman. While women participate in all departments of Government, they are underrepresented at senior levels.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The principal independent organization that monitors domestic human rights problems, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), generally operates without hindrance from the Government. However, with regard to allegations of mistreatment of two suspects held in connection with the murder of a police officer in 1996, the ICCL indicated in a report issued jointly with British Irish Rights Watch in 1997 that its efforts to investigate these allegations did not receive the cooperation of the police authorities. The ICCL report said that "this incident raises serious questions about the attitude of the Garda (police) authorities toward bona fide human rights organizations investigating allegations of human rights abuses in the Republic of Ireland." The ICCL report requested the Irish Government to set up a "fully independent inquiry, headed by a judge and with high court powers to summon and question witnesses, to investigate the treatment of persons arrested in Limerick following Garda McCabe's murder." The Minister of Justice told Parliament in December 1997 that, while he would not be prepared to tolerate any abuse of persons in custody, it would not be appropriate to take any action on the allegations pending completion of the murder trials, which were scheduled for January 1999.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution, as amended, forbids state promotion of one religion over another and discrimination on the grounds of religion, profession, belief, or status. In June an amended Employment Equality Act was passed that outlaws discrimination in relation to employment on the basis of nine distinct discriminatory grounds: Gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race, and membership in the Traveller community. Under the act a new independent equality authority is to replace the Employment Equality Agency. The authority is to be charged with a statutory duty to work towards the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment on the nine discriminatory grounds covered by the act.

Women

A 1997 government task force on violence against women concluded that the problem, in particular domestic violence, is widespread and that many women believe that existing services are incapable of responding to their needs. The task force found that many women believe that the legal and court systems minimize the seriousness of crimes committed against them, fail to dispense justice, and make them feel at fault for what happened. The task force cited a need to compile more accurate and comprehensive statistics on the nature and extent of the problem, and issued a series of recommendations that are under government review.

According to the Dublin Rape Crisis Center, the level of reported rapes continues to rise. The Center received 7,094 calls between July 1997 and June 1998 (a 30 percent increase over the same period in the previous year) and concluded that there was disquieting evidence that rape and sexual assaults--by their very number and frequency--were dulling the response of the public at large. For the 1997-98 period, the Center estimated that 29 percent of rape and child sexual abuse victims reported the crime to police and that 7 percent of these cases resulted in convictions, with 76 percent of cases still pending. Recent rape victims and victims raped by a stranger were more likely to have reported the rape to police. A 1990 act criminalized rape within marriage and provided for free legal advice to the victim. There are 12 women's shelters in the country, funded in part by the government, with accommodations for about 85 families.

Discrimination against women in the workplace is unlawful, but inequalities persist regarding pay and promotions in both the public and the private sectors. Women hold about 43 percent of public sector jobs, but are underrepresented in senior management positions. The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act of 1974, the Employment Equality Act of 1977, and the amended Employment Equality Act of 1998 provide for protection and redress against discrimination based on gender and marital status. The Employment Equality Agency, soon to be replaced by the Equality Authority, monitors their implementation. In 1997 the hourly industrial wage for women was about 70 percent of that earned by men, and the weekly earnings of women averaged 69 percent of the weekly pay of men.

Working women often are hampered by the lack of adequate childcare facilities. The 1994 Maternity Protection Act provides a woman 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and the right to return to her job. In December a new Parental Leave Act entered into effect, which allows a child's mother and father each to take 14 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 5. Although each parent has a separate entitlement to parental leave, the leave is not transferable, i.e., the mother cannot take the father's leave or vice versa. Parental leave does not affect a mother's right to maternity leave.

Children

The Government is committed to the welfare and rights of children, as demonstrated by its ongoing implementation of the 1991 Child Care Act. Education is compulsory for children from 6 to 15 years of age. Among other things, the act places a statutory duty on government health boards to identify and help children who are not receiving adequate care and gives the police increased powers to remove children from the family when there is an immediate and serious risk to their health or welfare. The Minister of State (junior minister) for Health has special responsibility for children's policy, including monitoring the implementation of the Child Care Act by the eight regional health boards. The 1987 Status of Children Act provided for equal rights for children in all legal proceedings.

The sexual abuse of children continued to receive significant media attention. The Dublin Rape Crisis Center reported that 57 percent of contacts with its crisis line involved adults disclosing child sexual abuse during their youth. The new Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, which was passed in June, strengthens and updates measures to protect children from sexual exploitation, including any exchange of information on the Internet that implies a child is available for sex. However, the Government by year's end had not enacted a requirement for the mandatory reporting of child abuse cases by health and social workers.

People With Disabilities

The government Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities issued a report in 1996, following a 3-year study, with 402 recommendations. The Commission estimated that 10 percent of the population have a disability. Under the Employment Equality Act of 1998, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone on the basis of disability in relation to employment. The Building Regulations Act of 1991 established minimum criteria to ensure access for people with disabilities to all public and private buildings constructed or significantly altered after 1992, but enforcement is uneven.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

There are some 25,000 nomadic persons who regard themselves as a distinct ethnic group called "Travellers," roughly analogous to the Roma of continental Europe. The "travelling" community has its own history, culture, and language. The Travellers' emphasis on self-employment and the extended family distinguishes them from the rest of society.

Travellers are regularly denied access to premises, goods, facilities, and services; many restaurants and pubs, for example, will not serve them. Despite national school rules that provide that no child may be refused admission on account of social position, Travellers frequently experience difficulties in enrolling their children in school. Sometimes they are segregated into all-Traveller classes. Of an estimated 4,000 Traveller families, about 1,000 live on roadsides or on temporary sites without toilets, electricity, or washing facilities. Many Travellers are dependent on social welfare for survival and are unable to access the mainstream economy because of discrimination and a lack of education.

The Employment Equality Act of 1998 outlaws job discrimination against Travellers. A task force on the travelling community was established in 1993 and produced a comprehensive report in 1995 on various aspects of Travellers' lives, including education, work, accommodation, health, and discrimination. A monitoring committee is overseeing implementation of the recommendations of the report.

The influx of asylum seekers, some of whom were migrating for economic reasons, led to a public debate over how open Irish society is to new immigrants and triggered isolated racist incidents. A 1997 European Union poll found that 55 percent of Irish citizens considered themselves racist.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The right to join a union is provided for by law, as is the right to refrain from joining. About 50 percent of workers in the private and public sectors are members of unions. Police and military personnel are prohibited from striking, but they may form associations to represent themselves in matters of pay, working conditions, and general welfare. The right to strike is freely exercised in both the public and private sectors. The Industrial Relations Act of 1990 prohibits retribution against strikers and union leaders; the Government effectively enforces this provision through the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment. In 1997 the number of industrial disputes and the number of workdays lost by strikes declined from 1996. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) represents 64 unions in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The ICTU is independent of the government and of the political parties. Unions may freely form or join federations or confederations and affiliate with international bodies.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Labor unions have full freedom to organize and to engage in collective bargaining. The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act of 1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1977 make the Employment Equality Agency responsible for oversight of allegations of antiunion discrimination. If the Agency is unable to effect resolution, the dispute goes before the Labor Court, which consists of one representative each for the employer and the union, plus an independent chairperson. The Unfair Dismissals Act of 1977 provides various forms of relief in cases of employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination, including the reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.

Most terms and conditions of employment are determined through collective bargaining, in the context of a national economic pact negotiated every 3 years by the "social partners," i.e., representatives of unions, employers, farmers, and the government. A 3-year agreement negotiated among the social partners in 1996, entitled "Partnership 2000," remains in effect.

The Industrial Relations Act of 1990 established the Labor Relations Commission, which provides advice and conciliation services in industrial disputes. The Commission may refer unresolved disputes to the Labor Court, which may recommend terms of settlement and may set up joint employer-union committees to regulate conditions of employment and minimum wages in a specific trade or industry.

There is an export processing zone at Shannon Airport with the same labor laws as the rest of the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced and bonded labor, including that performed by children, is prohibited by law and does not occur.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

By law children are required to attend school through the age of 15. Under the terms of the Protection of Young Persons Act, which took effect in 1997, employers may not employ those under the age of 16 in a regular full-time job. Employers may hire 14- or 15-year-olds for light work on school holidays, as part of an approved work experience or educational program, or on a part-time basis during the school year (for children over the age of 15 only). The act gives effect to international rules on the protection of young workers drawn up by the International Labor Organization and the EU; it sets rest intervals and maximum working hours, prohibits the employment of 18-year-olds for late night work, and requires employers to keep specified records for their workers who are under 18 years of age. The law prohibits forced and bonded child labor, and the Government enforces this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no general minimum wage law, but there are several minimum rates of pay applicable to specific industrial sectors, mainly those with lower-than-average wages. Although the lowest of these minimum wages is not sufficient to provide a decent living for a family of four, low-income families are entitled to additional benefits such as subsidized housing and children's allowances.

The standard workweek is 39 hours. Working hours in the industrial sector are limited to 9 hours per day and 48 hours per week. Overtime work is limited to 2 hours per day, 12 hours per week, and 240 hours in a year. The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment is responsible for enforcing four basic laws dealing with occupational safety that provide adequate and comprehensive coverage. No significant complaints arose from either labor or management regarding enforcement of these laws. Recent regulations provide that employees who find themselves in situations that present a "serious, imminent and unavoidable risk" may leave without the employer being able to take disciplinary action.

[end of document]

Blue Bar

Great Seal

Return to 1998 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.