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Questions raised over new human rights and equality body

Alan Shatter has published details of the plan to merge the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commision – but not everyone is happy.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Justice Minister Alan Shatter
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE GOVERNMENT HAS unveiled details of its plan to merge the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission under a new umbrella group.

However a coalition of over 170 organisation has said it is concerned the new body could be starting on the back foot before it even comes into existence.  The Equality and Rights Alliance said it was concerned that the proposals “fall well short of delivering a more effective body as promised by Minister Alan Shatter”.

Minister Shatter today published the bill which will replace the two bodies with the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The government had first put forward the proposal last September with a working group set up in October to examine what the new body should do.

The new organisation will be charged with making sure public bodies formally consider human rights and equality issues.

“Our society will benefit from having a strong and effective human rights and equality body,” said Minister Shatter. “Sunlight is the best antiseptic. The two existing bodies have their strengths, and I intend that the new Commission will combine the best of both”.

The Equality and rights Alliance said it would await further details of the Bill but said it was concerned that there did not appear to be any commitment to additional staffing and resources, which it said could leave the new body dead in the water.

“Merging two already eviscerated bodies without any apparent regard to additional funding or staffing doesn’t make sense,” said Rachel Mullen of the ERA.

“Neither body can function as it is meant to under current budget constraints. It is hard to see how they can do more with less, as proposed throughout the Heads of the Bill”.

Separately, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties welcomed the details of the new organisation. The human rights watchdog also said that appointees to the new body must be genuinely independent.

“The appointments procedure chosen should make a clean break with the culture of cronyism that has pervaded past public appointments in Ireland,” said Mark Kelly, the head of the ICCL.

The new commission will have an independent selection process to nominate people for appointment to the organisation.

The Bill has been approved by the government for priority drafting but there is as yet no date for when it will be brought before the Dáil.

Human rights and equality body should be independent – report >

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