European network of legal experts in the non-discrimination field
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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2014 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well.

Orlagh O'Farrel

Country context

The make up of Irish society is quite homogeneous. According to the 2011 census,[1] of a population of 4,588,252, 84% are Roman Catholic, 2.8% Church of Ireland (Protestant), 1% Muslim , 1.8% no religion, remainder unstated or various religions. 85% describe themselves as white Irish, 0.6% as Irish Travellers. 58 697 people describe themselves as Black or Black Irish. Between 2006 and 2011 ‘Other White’ (non-Irish) rose by almost 43 %, largely due to immigration from Eastern European countries.

Main principles and definitions

The Equality Acts prohibit discrimination across nine grounds, but govern different aspects of discrimination. The Employment Equality Act 1998-2011 prohibits discrimination in the sphere of employment; the Equal Status Act 2000-2012 prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services; the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 prohibits discrimination in the provision of occupational pensions. 

Enforcing the law

The Employment Equality Act 1998-2011 introduced the enforcement mechanisms for the Equality Acts. The enforcement mechanisms apply equally to public and private employees with the exception of certain public sector employees. Complaints under either the Employment Equality Act 1998-2011 or the Equal Status Act 2000-2012 may be brought before the Equality Tribunal.

Main legislation

The Irish Constitution enshrines a guarantee of equality before the law. There was a broad welcome for the range of equality laws which have been introduced over the last few decades.

Irish anti-discrimination legislation consists of the Employment Equality Act 1998-2011, and the Equal Status Act 2000-2012. Four other acts also contain provisions prohibiting discrimination, namely the Pensions Act 1990 – 2008, Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 – 2007, the Prohibition on the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, which criminalizes hate speech, and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, which provides for enforcement of discrimination law in the context of premises licensed for the sale of alcohol. 

Material scope

The Employment Equality Act 1998 – 2011 applies to the field of employment and vocational training; this does not distinguish between public and private sector employees. This relates to access to employment, conditions of employment, training or experience for or in relation to employment, promotion or re-grading or classification of posts. This Act also covers vocational training, employment advertisements and agencies and agency workers.

Equality bodies

The Equality Authority is an independent body mandated to work towards the elimination of discrimination, promote equality of opportunity, provide information to the public on a number of matters and review various legislative enactments. It fulfils these functions by means of research and awareness raising, review of the legislation and the drafting of statutory Codes of Practice.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.