New rights body 'needs openness'

 

The procedure for appointment of the board of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IRHEC) needs revision to meet the standards required under UN principles for human rights institutions, according to the president of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

Dr Maurice Manning was announcing what will be the final annual report of the IHRC before the new body is set up, merging the IHRC with the Equality Authority.

He called for the legislation setting up the new IRHEC to ensure openness, consultation, transparency and complete independence from the State, in line with the UN principles for national human rights institutions, known as the Paris Principles, to which the Government is committed.

Dr Manning said he sent detailed concerns to the Minister for Justice to ensure the new body can attain re-accreditation with A status from the UN early in 2013.

“There can be no question but that the definitions of human rights and equality in the legislation must be broad enough to ensure that that IHREC can hold the State to account across the full range of human rights and equality standards that Ireland has committed to uphold,” he said.

“The procedure for appointment of the board also needs some revision to meet the required standards for openness, consultation, transparency and independence.”

The draft legislation at the moment provides for the new commission to be appointed by a selection committee that is nominated by the Government and for the director of the new body to be Renee Dempsey, existing chief executive of the Equality Authority.

Dr Manning welcomed the fact the new body would be accountable to the Oireachtas rather than the Department of Justice. “As much of our scrutiny concerns the work of departments in general and the remit of the Department of Justice in particular, there will always be conflict or potential conflict if the situation remains as is,” he said.

He added: “While not set out in the draft legislation, we are also concerned about any possibility that human resources, administrative and financial controls, as well as confidential case files, would be moved into the Department of Justice system.

“International standards for National Human Rights Institutions stress the need for national institutions to retain full control over all human resources, budgeting, spending, authorisation, drafting of financial controls and record-keeping in order to ensure their independence.”

He added the new IHREC will be a public body outside of the civil service and that it was important that as an independent body it would be able to recruit and appoint its own staff independently.

He also stressed the importance of adequate funding so that it could carry out its functions effectively. These would exceed the combined limited funding and financial resources of the IHRC and the Equality Authority as they currently stand.

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