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The Impact of Community Acquis on Equal Pay in Ireland between National Economic Interests & Fundamental Rights of Women

Federica di Sarcina

The aim of my contribution is to highlight the impact that Ireland accession to the then EEC has had on the rights of Irish women. Victims of a patriarchal society, at the beginning of the 70's they were in such a state of weakness and isolation to be prevented from any real possibility to reach important goals such as equal treatment on the labour market.The adoption in the Irish Domestic Law of the "acquis communautaire", specifically for what it concerns equal pay for men and women, represented the beginning of a new commitment in favour of gender equal rights in this Country, as well as the birth of a new national society more in line with one of the EU fundamental principles, i.e. equality between women and men. In particular, the attention goes to the behaviour of, on the one hand, some members of the Irish government, such as the Minister for Foreign Affairs Garret Fitzgerald and the Minister for Finance Richie Ryan; on the other hand, that of Patrick Hillery, of Irish nationality himself but European Commissioner for Social Affairs (1973-1976), someone whose role is the full respect of the Treaties and of the common European interest. The Irish government officially asked for a temporary dispensation from the application of the norms of the EEC Treaty (Art. 119 on equal pay), as well as from the Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the application of the principle of equal pay for men and women. The request was justified by the obstacles encountered by some already suffering economic sectors because of women's pay rise. Notwithstanding the EEC's awareness of the difficult situation of the Irish economy, while supporting the research of suitable measures to overcome the crisis, the European Commission judged unacceptable the Irish government's request because it deprived Irish women of a fundamental right, as recognized in the EEC Treaty and confirmed from the actions promoted by the Community to achieve gender equality.

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