Amnesty International takes no position on issues of sovereignty or territorial disputes. Borders on this map are based on UN Geospatial data.
Back to Ireland

Ireland 2022

Criminalization of aspects of sex work put sex workers at higher risk of violence. The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) found inadequacies in redress schemes for women and children who had resided or been confined in state-funded institutions, and for women subjected to surgical procedures during childbirth without their informed consent. Concerns continued over access to adequate housing, including for Ukrainians and other refugees. Objections were raised over plans to introduce facial recognition technology in policing public spaces.

Workers’ rights

Research published in January found that Ireland’s criminalization of aspects of sex work placed sex workers at higher risk of abuse and violence, including rape.1 It showed that 2017 legislation criminalizing the purchase of sex forced sex workers to take more risks to earn an income and that retaining the offence of “brothel keeping” prevented their working together in the same premises for safety. It further found that sex workers’ mistrust of the police and social stigma were reinforced by the criminal law. Sex workers reported a fear of police harassment and violence and of landlords being targeted, leading to potential eviction and homelessness.

These findings were echoed in further research published in August, which revealed that street-based sex workers faced discriminatory behaviour from the police, including sexual exploitation and abuse of power by some officers. The research was based on interviews with sex workers by a team of researchers and peer-researchers, in a collaboration between the University of Limerick and Gender, Orientation, Sexual Health, HIV (GOSHH).

The report of a three-year review of the 2017 law by the Department of Justice had not been published by the end of 2022.

Right to truth, justice and reparation

In its observations on Ireland’s fifth periodic report, the UN HRC raised concern at gaps in the state’s response to past abuse of women and children who resided or were confined in state-funded institutions operated until the late 1990s by religious orders. These institutions included “mother and baby homes” for unmarried women to give birth, “Magdalene Laundries” where women and girls were forced to live and work, and institutional homes for children. The HRC criticized deficits in the state redress system offered to survivors. It called for a transitional justice mechanism to establish the truth of what happened in these institutions and to ensure effective remedies, including compensation.

The HRC also called for a prompt, independent and thorough criminal investigation into the past medical practice of symphysiotomy, a surgical procedure involving partial cutting of pubic bones to facilitate vaginal childbirth, without women’s knowledge or informed consent. It recommended adequate redress for all women affected including through the removal of barriers to accessing the state’s compensation scheme.

Sexual and reproductive rights

A bill was introduced in October to provide “safe access zones” to protect the safety and privacy of women entering medical facilities to access abortion care.

Right to housing

Concerns over the availability and affordability of housing intensified, as record numbers of people experienced homelessness. The government established a Housing Commission to review policy and manage a public consultation on a possible constitutional right to housing.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In February, the government waived visa requirements for people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

In March, it activated the EU Temporary Protection Directive, allowing Ukrainian refugees to access social protection, employment, healthcare and education, as well as free temporary accommodation, where needed. However, due to a lack of available housing, the government stated in October that accommodation could no longer be guaranteed.

Mass surveillance

NGOs and experts raised concerns at draft legislation proposing to introduce facial recognition technology for police law enforcement, including in public spaces.

Freedom of association and assembly

The Electoral Reform Act passed in July did not amend provisions in the Electoral Act that severely impact civil society organizations’ rights to freedom of association and expression, as NGOs had hoped. These provisions continued to impose a blanket ban on overseas, and severe limits on domestic, donations to campaigning work for broadly defined “political purposes”. Such restrictions continued to affect the general advocacy work of many human rights and other organizations, including outside of election or referendum periods.

The HRC raised concern at reports of excessive use of force by police during Covid-19 protests and disproportionate pandemic restrictions on freedom of movement and peaceful assembly. It called on the government to conduct a full human rights review of its Covid-19 response.

  1. Ireland: “We Live Within a Violent System”: Structural Violence Against Sex Workers in Ireland, 25 January