The Supreme Court has formallly declared that a ban preventing asylum seekers from working is unconstitutional.

The court ruled last May that the absolute ban was unconstitutional "in principle", but it deferred making a formal declaration for six months to allow the legislature to address the situation.

When the issue came before the Supreme Court again last November the State asked for more time.

The court was told that the Government was in the process of opting into the European Commission Reception Directive, which contains a provision requiring member states to afford the right to work in certain circumstances.

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The court said it would make the declaration on 9 February regardless of what progress the State had made in addressing the court's findings.

Protests were held around the country yesterday over the Government's proposals, which were announced last month by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

They include criteria stating that the job to be taken up must generally pay more than €30,000 per year, and that it cannot be filled by an EU citizen, or a person with full migration permission in Ireland.

Asylum seekers would also be prohibited from working in 60 employment sectors, including catering and childcare.

In a statement today, Minister Flanagan said these measures are temporary.

He said Ireland has signed up to a European Union directive, which comes into affect in June, bringing us in line with EU norms in relation to the right to work. 

The ruling has been welcomed by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which said it will seek a meeting with Mr Flanagan to "emphasise that new measures need to be inclusive and universal, and do not create conditions likely to give rise to exploitation".

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said: "The commission welcomes this final ruling, and is clear that the threat to human dignity posed by being deprived of any opportunity to engage in employment is not abstract or theoretical for people in direct provision.

"The right to work is essential for realising other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity".