Constitutional Provisions

The Republic of Ireland adopted its current Constitution in 1937. It has since undergone a series of amendments, most recently in 2015. It provides that

the state shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen.Art. 40(3)(2), 1937 Constitution of Ireland (as amended through October 2015).

Further, it is specified that

no citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law,Art. 40(4)(1), 1937 Constitution of Ireland (as amended through October 2015).and that

the dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law. Art. 40(5), 1937 Constitution of Ireland (as amended through October 2015).

There is no constitutional provision relating to law enforcement or the Irish Police, known as the Gardai (An Garda Síochána), which were first established in 1923. 

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties
1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1  State Party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints Yes
CAT Optional Protocol 1 Signatory
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court State Party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties
1950 European Convention on Human Rights State Party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

Guidelines on police use of force in Ireland have not been made public. The Code of Ethics for the Garda Síochána stipulates that the Gardaí have wide-ranging powers including stop and search, detain and arrest, the use of force, and to conduct surveillance. Every time they take a decision to use those powers they will be prepared to account for their actions and explain decisions.Mark Hilliard, "New Garda ethics code: main points", The Irish Times, 23 January 2017, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/new-garda-ethics-code-main-points-1.2947841.Under the 1976 Criminal Justice Act:

A member of the Garda Síochána may use reasonable force in order to compel a person to comply with a requirement to stop a vehicle, and such force may include the placing of a barrier or other device in the path of vehicles.S. 8(3), 1976 Criminal Justice Act.

In February 2018, it was reported that pepper spray had been used by the Gardai more than 500 times in 2017, which is almost double that of the British Metropoitan Police Service."Pepper spray used by gardaí over 500 times in 2017. Met Police and other UK forces use Tasers, which are not widely available to gardaí", The Irish Times, 19 February 2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/pepper-spray-used-by-garda%C3%AD-over-500-times-in-2017-1.3398022.

Excessive use of force that does not result in death may amount to assault or assault causing harm or serious harm: a violation of Sections 2 to 4, respectively, of the 1997 Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act.

There are no specific legal provisions on use of firearms by the Gardai, which is predominantly an unarmed police service. Instead, the law provides an exemption from licensing requirements under the various Firearms Acts for a member of the Garda Síochána when on duty.Darren Martin, "The guard and the gun", Garda Review, 27 May 2016, http://www.gardareview.ie/index.php/the-guard-and-the-gun/.To be lawful, however, the individual Garda officer must honestly believe that there was an immediate and real risk to life and that the use of lethal force was justified in the circumstances. 

Police Oversight

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has the mandate to oversee use of force by the police and to investigate complaints of excessive use of force. Together with the Policing Authority and Garda Inspectorate, it provides oversight of policing in Ireland. As noted below in the section on caselaw, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have questioned the independence and effectiveness of the GSOC.

Caselaw

Global

Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies

In 2014, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern

at the ability of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to function independently and effectively, and at the requirement for approval from the Minister of Justice to examine police practices, policies and procedures, and the length of time taken to complete investigations due to lack of cooperation by the police.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Ireland's fourth periodic report, UN doc. CCPR/C/IRL/CO/4, 19 August 2014, §13.

The Committee called on Ireland to adopt swiftly new legislation 

to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. It should also ensure that the proposed establishment of the Garda Síochána Authority does not encroach upon or undermine the work of the Commission, but rather complements and supports it.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on Ireland's fourth periodic report, UN doc. CCPR/C/IRL/CO/4, 19 August 2014, §13.

The Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was adopted in 2015. But in its Concluding Observations in 2017, the Committee against Torture expressed its concern about:

The capacity of the Commission to function independently and effectively and to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including because of financial and staffing limitations.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on Ireland's fourth periodic report, UN doc. CAT/C/IRL/CO/2, 31 August 2017, §19(a).

The Committee recommended that Ireland 

Strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to receive complaints relating to violence or ill-treatment by the police and to conduct timely, impartial and exhaustive inquiries into such complaints.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on Ireland's fourth periodic report, UN doc. CAT/C/IRL/CO/2, 31 August 2017, §20(a). 

The Committee against Torture further requested Ireland to 

provide, by 11 August 2018, information on follow-up to the Committee’s recommendations on ... strengthening the independence of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on Ireland's fourth periodic report, UN doc. CAT/C/IRL/CO/2, 31 August 2017, §37. 

Regional

European Court of Human Rights

There has, to date, been no case against Ireland involving police use of force that has been concluded with a finding of a violation. As noted below, The MacLochlainn Commission was established concerning an alleged violation by Ireland of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights based on Ireland's failure to conduct an independent investigation into a fatal police shooting in 1998. The decision in Nic Gibb v. Ireland is available for download below.

National

The Barr Tribunal

The Barr Tribunal (the sole member being Justice Robert Barr) was tasked with investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy by members of the Gardais at Abbeylara, County Longford on 20 April 2000. Mr Carthy was suffering from serious mental health problems. An Emergency Response Unit (ERU) team from Dublin was present along with ordinary Gardai officers. The Tribunal published its report in 2006, concluding that serious operational and systemic failures had occurred, and recommending that an urgent review be undertaken of Gardai command structures for dealing with sieges; that greater expertise and training in dealing with people with mental illnesses was urgently needed, and that the ERU be equipped with less-lethal options, including an attack dog unit.

Arrest of Anthony Holness

In  2010, a complaint was made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission by a man who alleged he had been assaulted by police in the course of his arrest. The GSOC investigation led to a 2013 report that recommended prosecution of four Gardai officers. This was the first prosecution by the Department for Public Prospections following an investigation by GSOC to result in custodial sentences for (three of the four) gardaí.

The MacLochlainn Commission of Inquiry

The MacLochlainn Commission was established in August 2014 to undertake a thorough investigation of the fatal shooting of Mr Ronan MacLochlainn by members of the Garda Síochána in the course of an attempted armed robbery of a Securicor van in Co. Wicklow in May 1998. The Commission of Investigation arose from a case taken by Mr MacLochlainn's partner to the European Court of Human Rights concerning an alleged breach by Ireland of the European Convention on Human Rights owing to a failure to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting. The Court struck out the case on foot of an undertaking by Ireland to establish a Commission of Investigation. The Commission has not yet rendered its report.

Commission on the Future of Policing

In September 2018, Ireland's Commission on the Future of Policing is due to present its report. Issues under consideration include the equipping of certain officers in the Gardai with tasers and body-worn cameras.

Downloads

1937 Constitution (as amended through 2015)

1997 Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act

Human Rights Committee Concluding Observations (2014)

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations (2017)

2015 Garda Síochána (Policing Authority and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act

European Court of Human Nic Gibb v. Ireland (2014)

GSOC Report into injuries suffered during arrest (2013)