The Irish Report for the Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19 has recently been published in full. The newly published sections of the Report concern, respectively, the social and employment protection mechanisms introduced in response to Covid-19 (Part V, authored by Seána Glennon), and the impact of the pandemic on human rights and vulnerable groups (Part VI, authored by Silvia Gagliardi).

Part V outlines the range of new social protection measures introduced in Ireland in response to the pandemic, as well as the series of pieces of legislation enacted to protect tenants at risk of losing their tenancy due to Covid-19, and the measures introduced by the banking sector to support those affected by Covid-19. Of a labour force of approximately two million people, the Irish Department of Social Protection reported that over 1.2 million people had received support from one of three specific Covid-19 social security measures, and that the total social welfare expenditure increased 46% in 2020 compared to 2019 [235]. The two measures included the Covid-19 Illness Benefit, payable to employed and self-employed persons who were unable to attend work due to Covid-19. The rate of benefit was EUR 350 per week, an increase on the standard benefit rate of EUR 203 per week [257]. A further protection mechanism was the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme (“TWSS”), which was subsequently replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (“EWSS”). These schemes were designed to help employers keep employees on their payroll through the crisis period [266]. Where this was not possible, the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (“PUP”) was established to support employed or self-employed persons who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic [253].

Part VI highlights the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated long-lasting and intersectional inequalities present in Irish society, taking an especially high toll on women, members of the Traveller communities, children from disadvantaged groups, older people, people with disabilities, people in custody, and non-nationals [287]. The pandemic disproportionately affected women, partly because they are traditionally overrepresented in caring and house-keeping jobs, and in the informal sector [298]. Furthermore, the so-called “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence affected Ireland, as it did much of the world. However, the Irish government was commended for introducing a number of “positive measures or exemplary practices” to aimed at tackling the problem [300]. Migrants and ethnic minorities have also been particularly affected by the pandemic. Discrimination and exploitation in the workplace was reported to have increased, and disadvantaged children bore the brunt of school closures in terms of education, mental health, and freedom from abuse [301]. There was a noteworthy increase in racist attitudes and attacks towards people of Asian descent given the association of the origins of Covid-19 in China [302]. The report also draws attention to the fact that legislative and administrative challenges remain in Ireland to guarantee the protection of human rights of persons with disabilities, and that this was evident in the pandemic [305].

The full Irish report is a fascinating, clear, and insightful account of legal responses to Covid-19 in Ireland that will serve as a useful resource for lawyers, historians, policy makers, and many others.