Head of state
Michael D. Higgins (replaced Mary McAleese in November)
Head of government
Enda Kenny (replaced Brian Cowen in March)
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
4.5 million
Life expectancy
80.6 years
Under-5 mortality
4.2 per 1,000

Criticisms were raised by the UN Committee against Torture regarding the lack of prosecutions in reported cases of violence against children in religious-run institutions. Provision of mental health services continued to be inadequate. Prison conditions fell below required standards.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

The 2011 Programme for Government, published in March, promised consideration of comprehensive constitutional reform, including in the areas of same-sex marriage, women’s equality and removing blasphemy from the Constitution.

In September, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights published the report of his June visit to Ireland, which raised concerns about the possibly detrimental effect of existing and proposed budgetary measures on the protection of human rights, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups. In September, the government announced its intention to merge the Irish Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority into a new Human Rights and Equality Commission.

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Children’s rights

In June, the UN Committee against Torture expressed concern that few cases of violence against children in religious-run institutions were forwarded for prosecution, despite extensive evidence of such abuse in the 2009 Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report).

The report of the Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese, Catholic Diocese of Cloyne (the Cloyne Report) was published in July. Among other findings, it concluded that two thirds of allegations of clerical sexual violence against children in that diocese made to the Catholic Church between 1996 and 2009 had not been forwarded to the Irish police force, An Garda Síochána, as required by the Church’s 1996 guidelines. The government subsequently renewed commitments regarding mandatory reporting of suspected violence against children.

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Arms trade

After a significant delay, the first annual report under the Control of Exports Act 2008 on military and dual-use exports and brokering was published in September, covering the period 2008 to 2010. However, there were gaps in the information it contained; for example, the end-use of the products was not listed.

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Prison conditions

Both the UN Committee against Torture and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture raised concerns regarding prison conditions, particularly around overcrowding, lack of in-cell sanitation, health care, and violence between prisoners in some prisons.

The UN Committee against Torture further noted the lack of independent and effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by prison staff.

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Right to health

Acknowledging delays in access to, and problems in the affordability of, health care, the government committed to introducing a system of universal health care.

In February, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture noted the slow pace of progress in mental health reform, and highlighted concerns with the Mental Health Act 2001, including the lack of protection for so-called “voluntary patients” and provisions regarding the use of electroconvulsive therapy.

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Refugees and asylum-seekers

There continued to be significant delays for asylum applicants to have their asylum or other protection needs assessed. Long-promised legislation to establish a single procedure for considering claims was still not enacted.

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Violence against women and girls

The UN Committee against Torture recommended an independent investigation into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of women and girls placed in religious-run “Magdalene Laundries” between 1922 and 1996. In June, the government established an interdepartmental committee to “clarify any State interaction with the Magdalene Laundries”. However, this was, in itself, insufficient to fulfil the Committee against Torture’s recommendation.

Ireland’s National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was launched in November.

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Police and security forces

The Smithwick Tribunal began public hearings in June to examine allegations that members of An Garda Síochána or other state agents colluded in the killing of two senior Royal Ulster Constabulary police officers by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1989 in Northern Ireland.

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