A fundamental entitlement to equality was created by the 1937 Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, which in Article 40.1 states that ‘All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law’. Ireland's equal opportunity legislative framework has also been substantially influenced by our membership of the European Union and other international bodies such as the United Nations and Council of Europe.
The following Acts are particularly relevant to the achievement of equality between women and men:
• Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012
• Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004
• Adoption Leave Acts 1995 and 2005
• Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006
• Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2004
• Equal Status Act 2000
• Carer’s Leave Act 2001
• Protection of Employees (Part-time Work) Act 2001
• Protection of Employees (Fixed-term Work) Act 2003
• National Minimum Wage Act 2000
The Equality Authority
The Equality Authority is an independent body set up under the Employment Equality Act 1998 and established in 1999. It has a mandate to promote equality of opportunity and to combat discrimination in the areas covered by the Employment Equality Acts and the Equal Status Acts. It is the specialised equality body in Ireland for the promotion of equal treatment as required under the EU Race Directive and the amended Gender Equal Treatment Directive.
The Equality Tribunal
The Equality Tribunal is the impartial 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 equality legislation prohibits discrimination on 9 grounds - gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.
The relevant legislation is the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011, Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2011 and the Pensions Acts 1990 to 2009.
The Irish Human Rights Commission
The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) works to promote and protect human rights in Ireland in a number of different ways:
• Promoting awareness about human rights
• Promoting and providing human rights education and training
• Recommending to Government how human rights standards should be reflected in Irish legislation, policy and practice
• Promoting debate around human rights issues as part of the legislative process
• Appearing before the High Court and Supreme Court as amicus curiae, 'friend of the court', to assist the courts with the interpretation of human rights standards in specific cases.
• Carrying out enquiries into human rights concerns
• Publishing and promoting research and reports on human rights
The IHRC plays an active role internationally. They are recognised by the United Nations (UN) as Ireland's National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). They chair the European Group of NHRIs who work strategically to advance human rights across Europe. The IHRC is also a member of the Bureau of the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs, which comprises over 65 NHRIs from around the world.
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