Human rights body must not face more cuts, says Minister
THE IRISH Human Rights Commission should not face further cuts in funding in the forthcoming budget, Minister of State for Equality Mary White has said.
Ms White said she would do her utmost to protect the commission, which faced cuts of 32 per cent in 2008 that had a “significant impact” on the body’s work.
“If we cut the commission’s budget any more we won’t be just cutting down to the bone, we’ll have cut down to the fossilised remains. I want to ensure we have a living body,” said Ms White at the publication of a new commission guide for public servants.
Ms White said a review of the three public bodies under her umbrella – the Equality Authority, the Equality Tribunal and the Human Rights Commission – would be concluded and proposals put to the Government before Christmas. The review would look at best practice in other countries. It would also look at efficiency and efficacy, she said.
“I personally wouldn’t favour an amalgamation of the three bodies,” said Ms White, who added she hoped her voice would be heard in budget talks.
Cuts of 32 per cent to the commission’s budget and a corresponding 43 per cent cut in the Equality Authority’s budget in 2008 provoked claims from human rights activists that their independence had been breached.
A review carried out last year by the Equality and Rights Alliance warned the cuts had a significant impact on the commission’s work.
At yesterday’s launch of a Human Rights Guide for the Civil and Public Service, Eamonn Mac Aodha, chief executive of the commission, said he was hopeful that the budget would not be cut.
The commission had to source funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, which was founded by US billionaire Chuck Feeney, to publish the guide, said Dr Maurice Manning, commission president.
The guide is a reference tool for civil and public servants and the commission will also provide free training to staff in public bodies.