Human Rights and Equality Commissions joined under new Bill
Fianna Fáil concerned legislation gives Government significant control over new body
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins expressed concern the legislation would give the Government significant control over the newly merged organisation, “through a limited interpretation of human rights, control over membership and restrictions on what investigations the body can undertake”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times
Legislation to replace the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission with a new organisation to be known as the Coimisiún na hÉireann um Chearta an Duine agus Comhionannas or Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, has been introduced in the Dáil.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the equality and human rights agendas would now be drawn together in a “single, leaner and more streamlined body” to “promote a culture that respects the human rights and equal status of everyone in our society”.
Mr Shatter highlighted Ireland’s concerns during its EU presidency of how best to encourage effective action and enhanced co-operation between justice systems in countering hate crime, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.
The State was particularly concerned “about the apparent rise in extreme forms of intolerance, including racism and homophobia, within the European Union and the failure in some cases to respond adequately”.
He said “the economic crisis has spawned new parties and revitalised pre-existing parties of the extreme right whose anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric is both corrosive and dangerous”.
He said the Bill was the outcome of a “period of intensive consultation in which civil society, members of the public and all those interested in the future of human rights and equality in Ireland were canvassed for their views”.
The new body would in due course “seek accreditation with the United Nations as Ireland’s national human rights institution”.
He also said there was a need for intensive training for gardaí on the need to be aware of the issue of racial profiling when carrying out their duties and this was an issue for the new interim Garda Commissioner.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins expressed concern that the legislation would give the Government significant control over the newly merged organisation, “through a limited interpretation of human rights, control over membership and restrictions on what investigations the body can undertake”.