• March 12, 2010

The US State Department Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor 2009 annual report on Ireland highlights a number of inadequacies, saying in its preamble:

“During the year there were some reports of police abuse of authority and inadequate care for prisoners with mental disabilities. Domestic violence; mistreatment of children; trafficking in persons; and discrimination against racial minorities, immigrants, and Travellers were problems.”

In common with the “Country Report” on the United Kingdom it identifies the continuing discrimination practised against Travellers (a problem identified almost two decades ago in the Celtic League special report `HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE CELTIC FRINGE’) and other ethnic minorities saying:

“The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, and membership in the Traveller community, and the government sought to enforce the law; however, discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities, including immigrants and Travellers, remained a problem.”

Prison conditions in Ireland were singled out for particular criticism in the report which records that:

“While prison conditions generally met international standards, there were some problems. Some mentally ill prisoners were alleged to have been inappropriately held in prisons rather than in mental health care facilities.

Prison overcrowding was a problem. According to the 2008 Irish Prison Service annual report, prisons averaged a 99 percent occupancy rate, with several prisons exceeding their capacity.

At times authorities held detainees awaiting trial in the same facilities as convicts. The country maintained a facility to ensure separation between children and young adults. However, authorities held a small number of 17 year olds with specific individual needs, including the need for higher security, with young adults.

The inspector of prisons reported that overcrowding at Mountjoy prison (the country’s largest) was so severe that prisoners were held in reception and shower blocks. A number of cells had no sanitation facilities, and prisoners were forced to “slop out” their cells. The prison was infested with mice and cockroaches.

Human rights groups continued to criticize understaffing and poor infrastructure at the Central Mental Health Hospital in Dundrum, the country’s only secure hospital for prisoners with mental disabilities.”

Whilst the Bureau report meets the generally high standard which we have come to expect over the years in accurately reflecting individual countries human rights (which can be benchmarked against other International `barometers’ such as UN and Council of Europe reports) this year, there were in our view some failings.

The report fails to reflect the disproportionate use of military force in support of the military against the community in North Mayo during environmental protests last year.

The report also says that the law allows “for a fair trial”. However, it then goes on to outline in some detail the existence within the judicial process of “special courts”, a provision which has been criticised by the United Nations.

These qualifications aside the Bureau report on Ireland is well worth scrutiny and the full “Country Report” on Ireland can be found at the link below:

https://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/eur/136037.htm

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