State equality agencies to be assessed

 

EXTERNAL ASSESSMENTS of the work of the Equality Authority, the Equality Tribunal and the Human Rights Commission have been requested by newly appointed Green Party Minister of State for Equality, Integration and Human Rights, Mary White.

Possibilities for  closer co-operation between equality and human rights bodies with the Office for Social Inclusion will be part of the assessment process, to be carried out by academics from outside the Civil Service. Reports into the three equality and human rights agencies, to be completed within three months, are to prepare the ground for a full-scale review of the bodies, with proposals due to be presented to Government “as soon as possible”.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced in the Dáil last month that the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, under newly appointed Minister Pat Carey, would be taking responsibility for social inclusion and family policy from the Department of Social and Family Affairs and for equality, disability, integration and human rights from the Department of Justice.

Mr Cowen agreed at the time with Green Party leader John Gormley that Ms White would review the various bodies.

A senior political source said yesterday that Ms White was commissioning “scoping papers, which would be done by external people, on how the institutions are working and what possibilities there are to enhance the equality framework in the context of social inclusion”.

These external assessments would, “set the parameters for the review of the structures, which will follow soon after the papers are complete”.

However, the process is said to be different from the moves to promote a merger of these and other bodies in the summer of 2008.

Although the moves were unsuccessful, the budgets of the authority and the commission were cut by 43 per cent and 24 per cent respectively and the authority’s chief executive, Niall Crowley, resigned.

Conscious that 2010 is the Year of Social Inclusion, Ms White intends completing the review “as soon as possible”.

President of the Human Rights Commission Maurice Manning said yesterday: “We would welcome such a review. We would participate in it very fully.

“The commission has already been examining some of the issues that might be involved in such a review.”