The Government has been both warmly praised and strongly criticised by Amnesty International over its six-month presidency of the European Council earlier this year.

The human rights group welcomed the significant efforts undertaken by Ireland to introduce an arms trade treaty.

However, Amnesty also accused the Government of "failing to achieve anything" when it came to ending female genital mutilation.

It is estimated that around 180,000 women living in Europe are affected by female genital mutilation every year.

According to Amnesty International, Ireland’s approach to the matter was both confused and inadequate during its presidency.

It said the failure to support European Commission efforts to end the practice amounted to a significant missed opportunity.

Director of Amnesty's Irish branch Colm O'Gorman said: "It wasn't clear whether anyone in the Government knew which department was responsible for working in the area," with activists passed from minister to minister.

While he described that outcome as "really disappointing", Mr O'Gorman added that in other areas it had been a positive presidency for human rights.

He said the Government's emphasis on putting human rights at the heart of the EU's foreign policy, in areas such as Roma rights, was both significant and welcome.

The Government has defended its record in pursuing a human rights agenda during its presidency.

Responding to the criticisms levelled by Amnesty, a Government statement said that it has in the past and will continue to address the issue of female genital mutilation, a practice it described as "appalling".

The Government said it supported various UN agencies tackling violence against women and girls, including providing a €1.2m donation in 2011.

It also noted that it had passed legislation on the issue - the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012.

The statement added that Ireland would continue to play an active role in trying to bring an end to what it described as "a clear violation of the human rights of women and girls".

The Government said its EU presidency was focussed on results and secured many achievements which Amnesty's report recognises.