Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent body set up under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 on 1 November 2014. Under the Act, the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission were dissolved and their functions transferred to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The functions of the Commission are to:
- Promote and protect human rights and equality
- Encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality, and intercultural understanding in the State
- Promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality in the State
- Encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person
- Work towards the elimination of human rights abuses, discrimination and prohibited conduct
The Commission carries out these functions by:
- Providing information to the public in relation to human rights and equality generally
- Keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in the State relating to human rights and equality
- Making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality in the State
- Examining any legislative proposal and report its views on any implications for human rights or equality
- Providing legal assistance to people taking legal proceeding to vindicate their rights (this is subject to certain conditions)
- Taking legal proceedings to vindicate human rights in the State
- Consulting with relevant national and international bodies around human rights or equality issues
- Providing or assisting in the provision of education and training on human rights and equality issues
- Carrying out equality reviews and preparing equality action plans
- Conducting inquiries into possible violation of human rights or equality of treatment obligations in the State
- Participating in the Joint Committee of Representatives of members of the Commission and members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
Human rights issues
The Commission can assist you to further human rights issues by assisting you with legal proceedings. If you want the Commission to grant assistance in relation to legal proceedings involving issues of human rights you must first be clear what the human right issue is. When you make your request to the Commission:
- Be clear how the legal proceeding is linked to the function of the Commission
- Identify how the legal proceeding could change how human rights are protected in Ireland
- You must have made reasonable efforts to get legal assistance elsewhere, for example, civil legal aid or criminal legal aid
The Commission is not an adjudicator body in respect of complaints of human rights violations in Ireland. It cannot offer remedies or compensation in cases where human rights have been violated. It cannot overturn court, or tribunal decisions, or require government departments to give entitlements to people who may feel they have an entitlement.
Contact the Commission for more information about how requests for legal assistance are assessed.
Equality and discrimination
There are 2 distinct pieces of legislation in place which set out equality rights for people and specifically outlaw discrimination when it occurs. The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 and the Equal Status Acts 2000–2015 outlaw discrimination in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services. Specifically, goods and services include professional or trade services; health services; access to accommodation and education; facilities for banking, transport and cultural activities.
Under equality legislation discrimination based on any one of the following distinct grounds is unlawful. These grounds are:
- Civil status
- Family status
- Sexual orientation
- Age (does not apply to a person under 16)
- Membership of the Traveller community
Since 1 January 2016, under the Equal Status Acts 2000–2015, you cannot be discriminated against when renting because you are getting Rent Supplement or any other social welfare payment, or a Housing Assistance Payment. This is known as the housing assistance ground.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. A person is said to be discriminated against if they are treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the grounds mentioned above. To establish direct discrimination, a direct comparison must be made, for example, in the case of disability discrimination the comparison must be between a person who has a disability and another who has not, or between persons with different disabilities.
Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies that do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another actually have a discriminatory impact. It can also happen where a requirement that may appear non-discriminatory.
How to apply
Complaints under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 must be brought within 6 months of the last act of discrimination. You can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission using the online complaint form on workplacerelations.ie.
To make a complaint under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 you must first notify the person or organisation you are making the complaint against within 2 months of the last act of discrimination. If you are not satisfied with the service provider's response, or if they have made no response within 1 month from the date you notified them, you can bring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission within 6 months of the last act of discrimination.
You can read more information in our document, Disputes about equality and discrimination.
Where to apply
For advice or assistance on human rights and equality issues contact