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Human rights and equality body should be independent - report

Review group on the establishment of a new body in Ireland says it should report to the Oireachtas – but remain independent of government.

Image: AnCatDubh/Wikimedia Commons

IRELAND’S NEW HUMAN rights and equality body should be independent from the government under statute, according to a review group set up to advise the government on the new body.

The Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has submitted its report to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The government announced last September that the separate bodies of the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission would be merged. The working group was set up the following month to advise the minister on issues surrounding the merger, including the new body’s functions and powers.

The review group received 69 submissions relating to the creation of a new equality and human rights organisation:

Coming through from almost every source was a recurring theme that the new organisation must be independent and must comply with the UN Paris Principles (which relate to the status of National Human Rights Institutions). The Act setting up the new IHREC should contain explicit provisions to ensure that the new organisation clearly and unanimously meets both criteria.

At the same time, the IHREC must be fully accountable, both financially and as to its substantive work.

The working group also said that the IHREC should report directly to the Oireachtas and funded on a multi-annual basis so as to be in a better position for planning and managing its finances.

“I will read it carefully and bring my detailed proposals for legislation to give effect to the merger to Government in the coming weeks,” Minister Shatter said after receiving the report.

“While I haven’t yet studied the report in detail and my colleagues in government will also need an opportunity to consider it carefully,” he added, “I can say that on a first reading it gives me a comprehensive and coherent package of recommendations that meet my key objective of creating a new and strengthened human rights and equality body, drawing from the strengths and best practices of both existing bodies and delivering a levelling up of powers and functions.”

The working group recommends that the purpose of the IHREC is to protect and promote human rights and equality, while encouraging the development of a “culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in Ireland”.

Read the Working Group Report in full (pdf) >

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