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Gender-political situation in Ireland


Legal situation:



Brief description and evaluation

What is striking about Irish gender and gender equality policy is its high differentiation at the institutional level. Numerous state institutions are dedicated to equality policies. Often it is therefore not easy to understand how tasks and functions are divided between these institutions. Monitoring and sanctioning of infringements against equality legislation is also anchored at the state level. Overall, Ireland possesses extensive legislation against discrimination and for gender equality. The state very clearly shows it understands its responsibility to ensure equality.

Importantly, equality is not limited to gender equality. Similarly as described for Great Britain, the focus for Irish anti-discrimination policies is equally on all types of discrimination. Gender equality policies are mainly based on a gender mainstreaming approach. Nonetheless, explicit women’s policies are also institutionally anchored, albeit less extensively.

It is probably due to the strong presence of gender and gender equality policies in numerous state institutions that non-state organisations are--at least concerning national gender policies--not so present and mostly focus on small projects and low-impact NGO work instead of on lobbying. Still, the large umbrella organisation of women’s organisations surely has an important function in monitoring state policies, and it also works in the EU context as a voice for NGOs. 

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legal situation

Legal situation

Gender equality legislation

According to the Irish constitution of 1937 no one may be excluded from obtaining Irish citizenship and Irish civil rights due to their sex. Article 40 grants all citizens equality before the law. The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2008 forbid direct and indirect discrimination – including based on gender. Sex reassignment is not mentioned. The Employment Equality Act is for example applied in cases when an employer discriminates against an employee (or potential employee) in their access to employment, employment conditions, access to promotion, orders or processes. Discriminating advertisements are also prohibited. Direct and indirect gender discrimination with respect to differences in pay is also forbidden.

By and large the transposition of EU directives into Irish legislation is satisfactory. Overall, legal decision-making is extensive and complex. The Equality Tribunal, the Irish Labour Court and the courts have been known to apply the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.

The Equal Status Acts 2000 – 2008 regulates protection against discrimination outside of the work place and thereby complements the Employment Equality Acts.

No distinction is made between gender equality legislation and anti-discrimination legislation.

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Legislated gender quota with a focus on politics and business

Ireland’s social democratic party, the Labour Party, aims at an internal 40% gender quota. There are no rank order provisions but the party has a sanctions mechanism for non-compliance if too few female candidates are found.

No further information on quota in Ireland was found.

Other laws and legislative regulations and government programmes

National Women's Strategy 2007-2016:
This strategy was drawn up by the Department of Justice and Equality and aims to support women in Ireland in their work, be it in employment or at home as carers; to encourage them to make a contribution to Irish society as active citizens and decision-makers.

Equality for Women Measure 2010-2013:
The programme is financed with state and European funds and aims to foster gender equality in accordance with the National Women’s Strategy 2007-2016. Funding of up to €50,000 per project, for one or more years, has been made available to 42 clearly targeted projects which aim to foster gender equality.

Projects receive funding if they give women access to employment, either through providing the necessary social skills and/or education and/or training; or developing female entrepreneurship; or supporting the career development of women through for example the provision of training.

The programme is embedded in Pobal, an organisation working on behalf of the government to support communities and local agencies toward achieving social inclusion, reconciliation and equality.

National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2010-2014:
On 9 March 2010 the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform launched its first-ever National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The strategy will operate over a five-year period between 2010 and 2014.

The strategy sets out a plan for ‘whole-of-government’ action involving six government departments, their agencies and up to 100 non-governmental organisations. The strategy identifies four high-level goals which it seeks to achieve, namely, to promote a culture of prevention and recognition through an increased understanding of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence; to deliver an effective and consistent service to those affected; to ensure greater effectiveness of policy and service planning; and to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the strategy

National Development Plan 2007-2013:
Gender mainstreaming is at the centre of government activities here.
The NDP also includes a range of positive actions to ensure women’s access to the labour market and all levels of decision-making.

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Current political discourse

Gender balance on state boards:
The Irish state has for a number of years committed itself to achieving 40% (the internationally recommended norm) female representation on all state boards and committees under the aegis of each of the departments. In December 2009, all ministers agreed to take proactive measures in their departments to achieve that target for female participation on state boards.

Proposal for a Civil Partnership Bill:
The Civil Partnership Bill 2009 proposes the introduction of a civil partnership scheme for same-sex couples together with a variety of rights, obligations and protection measures. The bill also proposes to substitute the term ‘civil status’ for ‘marital status’ throughout the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2008. This will have the effect of extending the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of marital status. There are similar provisions for the Equal Status Acts 2000-2008.

Female Genital Mutilation Bill:
The Female Genital Mutilation Bill was presented to the Oireachtas on 15 April 2010 by means of a Private Members’ Bill. The bill proposes treating it as an offence to perform any procedure for the genital mutilation of any woman or girl.

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NGOs: political parties, civil society organisations

National Women’s Council of Ireland:
In 1973 a group of feminists, chaired by Hilda Tweedy of the Irish Countrywomen's Association, set up the Council for the Status of Women, with the goal of gaining equality for women. In 1995, following a strategic review, it changed its name to the National Women's Council of Ireland and has since built up its membership base to include 160 groups.

Economic and political equality, equality in public services and the fight against violence against women and children are some of the areas the council works in.

9 Marlborough Court,
Marlborough Street,
Dublin 1, Ireland
Tel.: +353 1 8787248,
Fax: +353 1 8787301,

Hannas House:
Hanna's House aims to create a home for an active feminist community in Ireland, working for a non-violent, just society that embraces diversity. This unique space for women’s groups and feminist activists provides opportunities for women to develop and promote radical changes for equality and justice.

9 Marlborough Court
Marlborough Street
Dublin, Ireland
Tel.: +353 (1) 878 6400

Marriage Equality:
This organisation pursues the goal of equal marriage rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It bases its approach on the principle that homosexual and heterosexual people are equal before the law.

105 Capel Street
Dublin 1, Ireland
Tel.: +353 1 8734183

Womens Aid:
This feminist organisation aims to fight violence against and the abuse of women. Women’s Aid provides direct support for women who have become victims of male violence and abuse.

Women's Aid
Everton House
47 Old Cabra Road
Dublin 7, Ireland

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Government, ministries

Department of Justice and Equality:
This department acts in a liaison capacity between the Equality Tribunal and the Equality Authority. The Department deals with all questions of equality, not only those related to gender.

Department of Justice and Equality
94 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Lo-Call: 1890 221 227

In the Department of Justice and Equality
Cosc – the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence:
Cosc was established in 2007. The work of Cosc covers issues relating to domestic and sexual violence against women and men, including older people in the community. Cosc is subordinated to the Department of Justice and Equality. Its work includes close interaction with NGOs who receive funding from the government.

Cosc – The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence
Department of Justice and Equality
2nd Floor, Montague Court
Montague Street
Dublin 2
Tel.: +353 1 4768680
Fax: +353 1 4768619

Irish Equality Authority:
The Irish Equality Authority is an independent body set up under the Employment Equality Act 1998. It was established in October 1999. The Equality Authority replaced the Employment Equality Agency, and has a greatly expanded role and functions. The Employment Equality Agency had been established under the Employment Equality Act 1977 and operated within the Department of Equality and Law Reform. The Irish Equality Authority aims to prevent discrimination in employment, the provision of goods and services, housing and education. It concentrates on the promotion of equal opportunities, providing the public with information on legislation and controlling this legislation and developing proposals for reform when deemed necessary.

The board is nominated by the Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for a term of 4 years (with a possibility to extend). There are 38 employees. Funding available to the department amounted to €3,333,000 in 2009.

Public Information Centre
The Equality Authority
Birchgrove House,
Co. Tipperary,
Tel.: 1890 245 545 (Lo-call)/ +353 1 417 33 36


The Office of the Irish Ombudsmen:
The Office of the Ombudsman examines complaints related to administrative measures taken by public bodies that allow such examinations. By the end of 2008 approximately 72,000 valid complaints had been handled by the office. In addition, the office deals with up to 10,000 queries from the public every year. Reasons for complaints are discrimination on grounds of gender, age, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, race, etc.

18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.
Tel.: +353-1-639 5600
Lo-call: 1890 223030
Fax: +353-1-639 5674

Equality Tribunal:
The Equality Tribunal is an impartial (internet) forum to hear or mediate complaints of alleged discrimination under equality legislation. It is independent and quasi-judicial and its decisions and mediated settlements are legally binding. The core values of the Equality Tribunal are impartiality, professionalism, accessibility and timeliness.

The Equality Tribunal
3, Clonmel Street
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel.: 1890 34 44 24 (Lo-call)/ +353 1 4774100
Fax: +353 1 4774141

National Framework Committee on Work-Life Balance:
The National Framework Committee on Work-Life Balance was established to support companies in developing and implementing work-life balance arrangements.

Amanda McCrudden
Equality Authority

Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Women’s Rights:
‘The non-partisan joint parliamentary committee was formed in 1983 to report on the effects of national equality policies and legislation on women and has been confirmed by every subsequent election. Its duties have been covered by the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights since 1997. To support the process the mixed Committee has established a subcommittee for the rights of women.’

Houses of the Oireachtas
Leinster House
Kildare Street
Dublin 2, Ireland

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Further Gender Actors

Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC):
This business association also mentions the dimension of gender under the issue of diversity management in its HR section. In this context, it asks for a gender balance in companies.

IBEC Head Office
Confederation House
84/86 Lower Baggot Street
Dublin 2

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Equality Studies Centre (UCD):
Equality Studies is an inter-disciplinary study of significant equalities and inequalities in human life. It addresses topics including patterns of inequality, explanations for inequality, principles of equality and associated objectives, egalitarian social, political and economic institutions and strategies for change.

Work in the Equality Studies Centre is currently concentrated in four main areas: development and global north/south relations, minorities and discrimination, gender, and class structures.

The centre's main aims are to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of equality, to promote a greater understanding and concern for equality both within Ireland and internationally and to undertake and promote research on equality issues.

Equality Studies at the UCD School of Social Justice
UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
Tel.: + 353 1 716 7104
Fax: + 353 1 716 1007

In Dublin there is a further women’s studies course at the UCD School of Social Justice: Women's Studies at the UCD School of Social Justice

National University of Ireland, Galway - Women's Studies Centre:
The programme builds on a long-established tradition of Women's Studies at NUI Galway. It also complements existing strengths of the School of Political Science and Sociology in feminist and gender analyses. The Global Women's Studies Programme recognises that globalisation and related global issues are always simultaneously women's issues and local issues.

Global Women's Studies
School of Political Science and Sociology
10 Upper Newcastle Road
National University of Ireland
Tel.: 353 (0)91 493450
Fax: 353 (0)91 494549

Trinity College Dublin - Centre for Gender and Women's Studies:
The Centre for Women's Studies at Trinity College was established in July 1988. In 1999, in order to reflect a broadening focus, the centre changed its name and became the Centre for Gender and Women's Studies. According to a 2006 evaluation, ‘Trinity is now the academically strongest Gender and Women's Studies Centre in Ireland'. The Centre for Gender and Women's Studies undertakes three interrelated activities: teaching, research and community/extramural activities. It takes an integrated approach to research and learning, so that both staff and students are encouraged to participate across these areas.

Centre for Gender and Women's Studies
University of Dublin Trinity College
20 Westland Row
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel.: +353 (0)1 896 2225
Fax: +353 (0)1 896 3997

University of Limerick - Programmes in Women's Studies:
Teaching and research are centred on gender and women. Work is interdisciplinary and across different areas. Women’s studies is concentrated on developing research on women, femininity and gender relations. Research in women’s studies focuses on all areas of social, cultural, political and economic life.

Women's Studies
c/o Anne McCarthy
Department of Sociology
University of Limerick
Co Limerick
Tel.: +353-61-202445

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There are numerous sources from state agencies, most of the institutions have their own websites where they describe their actions and thematic areas of interest, and sources are easy to locate.

Compared with this, finding sources of non-state actors is more difficult. Sources appear a bit chaotic and the usual keywords do not lead to these pages. There are also few publications by non-state actors that give access to or point at sources.

The main source of information is the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

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Citation of relevant sources

Sources of state institutions/actors (see above)

The National Women’s Council of Ireland is the central source of information for NGOs. 

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This study was conducted by Tanja Berger und Pamela Dorsch and comissioned by the Gunda Werner Institute of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010.

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