Concern over rights body Bill
THE EQUALITY and Rights Alliance, an umbrella group for 171 civil society groups, has added its voice to concerns about the Bill setting up a new Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The head of the Scottish Human Rights Commission has similarly expressed concern that the legislation does not comply with the UN’s principles for such bodies.
The principles underlying UN-accredited national human rights institutions are known as the Paris principles, and the observance of these principles is regularly monitored to ensure compliance by accredited bodies. They state that all such institutions must be representative of a broad section of society, independent of government and adequately resourced so that they can carry out their mandate.
According to the heads of the Bill, which are before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice Defence and Equality at the moment, the director of the new commission will be the present head of the Equality Authority, Renee Dempsey, a former civil servant in the Department of Justice. Its board will be nominated by a selection panel to be established by the Government.
In its submission to the Oireachtas committee, the ERA states that the appointment of Ms Dempsey “removes autonomy from the commission to appoint its own director as recommended by the working group reporting to the Minister on the merger”.
“It also places a seconded civil servant at the head of the new body. Such a stipulation runs contrary to the Paris Principles,” it continues.
It also criticises the considerable control to be exercised by the Minister for Justice over the financial resourcing of the rights commission and its financial accountability, and proposed instead that it be accountable to the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Separately, in a letter to the Irish Human Rights Commission, the chairman of the Scottish Human Rights Commission and of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions, Prof Alan Miller, said a number of issues need to be addressed to bring the legislation into compliance with the Paris principles.