Ireland

Rights curtailed under COVID-19 regulations, police crack down on outdoor gatherings

Civil society groups and opposition parties raised concerns on the governments decision to seek an extension of emergency COVID-19 powers until 9th November 2021, via the introduction of the Health and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2021. This Bill would allow the Minister for Health to extend the provisions of various Acts that enable COVID-19 lockdowns until 9th November 2021 and then indefinitely on a quarterly basis thereafter. As a result of these concerns, the Minister relented and introduced an amendment which allows for an extension till November 2021 but only a single three-month renewal to February 2022 thereafter, if need be. The bank holiday weekend in June 2021 saw large numbers of people gathering in Dublin, resulting in at least 33 arrests as police took the decision to break up large gatherings across the city due to “public safety concerns”. In a separate development, representatives from Digital Rights Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and ICCL have raised concerns over the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. Critics argue that it is so “vague and arbitrary” that it “seriously damages” users’ constitutional rights. Read more

Rights curtailed under COVID-19 regulations, police crack down on outdoor gatherings

CSOs call for protection of the right to peaceful assembly during the pandemic

As fundamental rights continue to be restricted under the pretext of the health emergency, CSOs are calling for the need to protect the rights of “peaceful and pandemic-safe protesters”. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is requesting the government to demonstrate consideration for human rights by carrying out a ‘human rights test’ every time it makes the decision to restrict rights. More specifically, ICCL has called on the government to issue specific guidelines on how people can exercise fundamental rights such as protesting in a “pandemic-safe” way. During this reporting period, anti-lockdown protests were staged , with several protesters arrested. During a separate protest staged following the recent murder of British woman Sarah Everard, police took down the names of protesters which eventually caused protesters to disperse. Concerns have been raised about the “perceived inconsistency in policing demonstrations”.
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CSOs call for protection of the right to peaceful assembly during the pandemic

Criminal sanctions for organising gatherings remain, critical social media posts surveilled

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) had continuously questioned the necessity and proportionality of the use of criminal sanctions to enforce public health guidelines on restricting gatherings, especially given the high levels of public compliance, and the lack of evidence that criminalisation and prosecution are justified or likely to be effective. It has opposed the extension of the Emergency Health Legislation without substantial review and debate, which was due to expire in November. In a concerning development, organisers of the Black Lives Matter protest which took place on 6th June 2020 were being investigated under COVID-19 regulations. Anti-mask protests
which took place from August 2020 to October 2020, in which counter-protesters were attacked, have also been a matter of concern. It emerged that the Department of Justice has been carrying out extensive social media monitoring on posts commenting on issues concerning the department during the crisis, such as on the impact of COVID-19 on those living in the direct provision system.

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Criminal sanctions for organising gatherings remain, critical social media posts surveilled

Government emergency measures increase policing powers

The Irish government introduced emergency powers to deal with the global pandemic. The legislation banned mass gatherings and made provision for the detention of people who are possible sources of COVID-19 who refuse to self-isolate. According to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the legislation contains a sunset clause and a ‘measure approach’ was adopted. However concerns were raised about the extended powers given to the police during the pandemic. In a letter to the police Commissioner, organisations raised several issues that had been reported to their office or in the media concerning policing during the pandemic. This included the deployment of armed police officers at checkpoints - in a country where historically police are unarmed - and ‘discrepancies’ related to the treatment of peaceful assemblies and strikes. In one protest, police began recording names of participants, which led to protesters feeling intimidated. Read more

Government emergency measures increase policing powers

Far-right and anti-racism protesters clash; police deny young climate protesters supervision

Ireland has experienced an increase in far-right organising. In December 2019 hundreds of anti-racism activists gathered in solidarity against the rise of the far-right. However, counter demonstrators showed up claiming to stand up for the right to free speech. The two groups clashed. In addition, police refused to supervise the Fridays for Future climate protests which may have discouraged some from participating . Read more

Far-right and anti-racism protesters clash; police deny young climate protesters supervision

Ireland: Steps to set up Electoral Commission amid calls for reform of restrictive election laws

In May 2019, a number of Ireland's senators launched a bill for the reform of the Electoral Act which restricts civil society campaigning. Additionally, public consultations on the establishment of an Electoral Commission in Ireland were carried out between late December 2018 and 15th March 2019, which also renewed calls to address existing deficiencies in the Electoral Act.
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Ireland: Steps to set up Electoral Commission amid calls for reform of restrictive election laws

Removal of blasphemy from constitution "an important step" for Ireland

During an October 2018 referendum, Voters decided by a large majority to remove the offence of blasphemy from Ireland's constitution. Read more

Removal of blasphemy from constitution "an important step" for Ireland

Police criticised for abetting the use of force to remove housing protestors

Members of An Garda Síochana wore balaclavas and stood by while a forceful eviction of housing protestors took place in September 2018 in Dublin. Read more

Police criticised for abetting the use of force to remove housing protestors

Regulator settles dispute with Amnesty Ireland over foreign funding

Following a high court review, Ireland's Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has dropped its demand that Amnesty Ireland return EUR 137,000 in funding to the Open Societies Foundation. Read more

Regulator settles dispute with Amnesty Ireland over foreign funding

Concerns over free expression rights and censorship emerge during abortion referendum

A number of instances during the campaign to relax Ireland's abortion laws led civil society groups to raise concerns that artistic freedom was being unduly restricted. Read more

Concerns over free expression rights and censorship emerge during abortion referendum