1. The Committee
considered the initial report of Ireland on the implementation of
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(E/1990/6/Add.15) at its 14th to 16th meetings, held on 4 and 5 May
1999 (twentieth session), and adopted, at its 25th and 26th meetings,
held on 12 May 1999, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the initial report by the State party,
which is in general conformity with the guidelines established by
the Committee. The Committee appreciates the written replies to the
list of issues submitted by the State party. It also notes with satisfaction
the presence of a large delegation, comprised of experts from various
ministries, which answered most of the questions put to it during
the frank and constructive dialogue.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee
welcomes the determination of Ireland to implement the Good Friday
Agreement of 1998 to settle peacefully the future status of Northern
4. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that the State party intends to increase its
contribution to international development cooperation from 0.29 per
cent of its GNP to 0.45 per cent by the year 2002.
5. The Committee
also welcomes the adoption of the Employment Equality Act of 1998
and the Equal Status Bill of 1998 which aim at removing several aspects
of discrimination relating to, inter alia, gender, marital
status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability,
race, colour, nationality, national or ethnic origin and membership
of the traveller community.
6. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the adoption of the Refugee Act of 1996, the
Educational Act of 1998 and the National Anti-Poverty Strategy Plan
for the period 1997-2007 and related mechanisms such as the poverty-proofing
of policy proposals. In addition, it welcomes the establishment of
the Task Force on Violence against Women in 1996 and the Task Force
on Alcohol, the assessment by the Department of Health and Children
of the needs of mentally handicapped persons for the period 1997-2001;
and the establishment of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Unit in 1993. It also welcomes the creation of the National Disability
Authority and the Disability Support Service; and notes that a rights-based
disability bill is currently being considered by Parliament.
7. The Committee
welcomes the pro-active approach of the State party to the problem
of reducing unemployment, which has led to a considerable drop in
the unemployment rate from 11 to 6 per cent.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
8. The Committee
notes that, following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, there
are no further major factors and difficulties impeding the implementation
of the Covenant.
D. Principal subjects of concern
9. The Committee
regrets that the Covenant has not been fully incorporated or reflected
in domestic legislation and is rarely, if ever, invoked before the
10. The Committee
notes with regret that the International Convention on the Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination has not yet been ratified by
Ireland because the legislative process for this purpose has not yet
11. The Committee
notes with regret that article 40.1 of the Constitution contains provisions
which appear to be inconsistent with the principle of non-discrimination
as set out in articles 2 and 3 of the Covenant.
12. The Committee
regrets that while the State party's National Anti-Poverty Strategy
addresses issues relating to, inter alia, educational disadvantage
and rural poverty, the Strategy does not adopt a human rights framework
consistent with the provisions of the Covenant.
13. The Committee
is also concerned in this regard about the persistence of poverty
among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, notably the disabled, the
traveller community, children, elderly women and single women with
children. Moreover, the Committee notes with concern that social welfare
payments are not above the income poverty line and that child care
benefits are not sufficient to cover the cost of bringing up a child.
14. The Committee
notes with regret that there is as yet no appropriate legislation
dealing with the rights of the mentally handicapped and especially
with regard to their detention in psychiatric clinics.
15. The Committee
also regrets that there is as yet no specific legislation to deal
with the rights of the physically disabled, although the delegation
asserted that the State party is committed to redressing this situation
through existing administrative policies and measures.
16. The Committee
is concerned at the high rate of illiteracy at various levels of society,
especially among adults, youth, poor children, children of the traveller
community and those in rural areas.
17. The Committee
notes with concern that the increase in tobacco use is the single
most important contributing factor to the disease burden facing Ireland
and that the State party's responses have been inadequate to deal
with this problem. The Committee is also concerned about the alcohol-related
problems in Ireland which have not yet been addressed by the National
Alcohol Policy of the State party.
18. The Committee
deplores the fact that the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 is still
in force, which provides that seafarers absent without permission
are punished by being forced to work on board ship. The State party
promised to repeal or amend this Act after the International Labour
Organization had condemned this practice, but has not done so yet.
19. The Committee
notes with regret that the procedures for trade unions to obtain a
licence to conduct collective bargaining negotiations are cumbersome.
20. The Committee
also notes with regret that despite measures adopted by the State
party the traveller community and the disabled are still discriminated
against in various respects, such as employment, education and housing.
21. The Committee
further notes with regret the relatively high rate of teenage suicide
and the long waiting lists for medical services at public hospitals.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
22. The Committee
recommends that the State party incorporate justiciable economic,
social and cultural rights in the proposed amendment to the Constitution.
23. The Committee
calls on the State party to consider ratifying the International Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as soon as
24. The Committee
recommends that the State party speed up the process of adopting the
rights-based Disability Bill and to start implementing it as soon
25. The Committee
calls on the State party to expand the scope of its National Anti-Poverty
Strategy, including the poverty-proofing of policy proposals, and
to integrate a human rights approach into the Strategy.
26. The Committee
requests the State party to provide more data in its second periodic
report on the problem of poverty in Ireland and urges the Government
to take all remedial measures in order to combat the problem of poverty
27. The Committee
urges the State party to speed up the enactment of legislation relating
to the human rights of the disabled and of the mentally handicapped,
including their detention, and to enact the legislation to combat
discrimination affecting the traveller community.
28. The Committee
recommends that the State party adequately supervise the quality of
education received by students at the primary school level of the
formal educational system in order that the educational system be
in conformity with articles 13 and 14 of the Covenant.
29. The Committee
urges the State party to take the necessary measures to ensure that
the provisions of the Covenant are widely disseminated, particularly
among the legal profession and members of the judiciary.
30. The Committee
requests the State party to ensure the wide dissemination of its present
concluding observations and to inform the Committee of steps taken
to implement these recommendations in its next periodic report.