Members appointed to Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Appointments delayed by Betty Purcell’s challenge to the selection process

President Michael D Higgins has appointed five new members to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Mr Higgins presented the warrants of appointment to seven commissioners, including the five new appointees, in Áras and Uachtaráin on Thursday. The ceremony was also attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The seven individuals are Merchants Quay Ireland chief executive Tony Geoghegan; migrant rights activist Salome Mbugua; UCC professor Caroline Fennell; senior counsel Colm O'Dwyer; Inclusion Ireland chief executive Patrick Connolly; Misean Cara chief executive Heydi Foster-Breslin; and NUIG lecturer Frank Conaty.

The appointments will see the commission at its full complement of 15 members, and will also ensure a gender balance with eight women and seven men.


The appointments process had been delayed by a legal submission challenging the selection process by Betty Purcell, an outgoing commissioner.

Ms Purcell, a former producer at RTÉ, had been on the commission since 2014 and applied to be reappointed.

She was unsuccessful at interview and said she had been “pushed out” because she had been a “radical thorn in the side” in her approach to such issues as abortion access and the refugee crisis.

David Stanton, Minister of State in the Department of Justice, said "the commissioners designate reflect a broad range of experiences and backgrounds and will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to their new roles".

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said the appointments "bring significant legal, academic and practical expertise" to the organisation.