Speaking this evening on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill 2014 Second stage in the Seanad, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly said;
“Sinn Féin is opposed to the Bill which merges the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and the Equality Authority given the fact that the establishment of the IHRC stemmed from the Good Friday Agreement - an agreement which was endorsed by the vast majority of people across this island. This is a merger that will undermine the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and will ultimately lead to a loss of much needed focus and expertise.
“'Trying to turn back the clock on the equality agenda’ is how the now Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore summed up the idea when it was originally proposed by the previous Government.
“However, nothing has been done to put the clock right and this legislation, in the view of Sinn Féin, undermines the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“The British Irish Parliamentary Association (BIPA) has acknowledged that the potential of the agreements have not been fully realised and elements have not been implemented. When there is still much left to do to fulfil the agreements, why would we take this retrograde step backwards?
“By beginning to pick apart aspects of the Good Friday Agreement it will also mean that this government will lose the moral authority to challenge those who want to unpick the agreement. Or, indeed, refuse to implement the agreements. We cannot afford to let this happen.
“Monumental work has taken place in order to get to where we are. The Irish government, as co guarantor of this agreement, has a duty to take it seriously. This Bill does not give out that signal. It must be pointed out that this precarious decision has been taken in return for nominal savings in terms of an agency’s budget; savings that could be realised elsewhere. Savings that would undoubtedly be lost should peace or equality on the island be jeopardised. The bill is bad for Human Rights and Equality in this state. I and my party are opposing it for these reasons.”