Speaking following a meeting with Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Chief Commissioner of the NI Human Rights Commission today, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Jonathan O’Brien restated the party’s opposition to the proposed merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. Deputy O’Brien called on the government to ensure that the merged body continue to benefit from the equivalency of human rights provisions set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
The Cork North Central TD said:
“Firstly Sinn Féin is against any merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. However if this proposed merger is to go ahead, the government must recognise that under the UN Paris Principles, the Irish and northern Human Rights Commissions hold an ‘A’ status rating, meaning that they must be appropriately mandated and financially secure so that they are enabled to conduct their work effectively. The Good Friday Agreement provided for a joint committee of the two Commissions to consider the development of a charter of rights for the island of Ireland. While the two Commissions completed a draft of the elements to be contained in the charter, there is still much work to be done. It is imperative that the new human rights and equality body is resourced and mandated adequately in order to carry on this work.
“I introduced a Bill to the Dáil to strengthen the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) following the government’s proposal of a merger with the Equality Authority. This bill would have the effect of increasing the IHRC's remit and would give it the protection and status it deserves as a crucial element of the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Sinn Féin remains opposed to the merger of the IHRC and the Equality Authority as it is merely a cover for cutbacks to two organisations that have never been adequately resourced.
“The Labour party were vocal in their opposition to a proposed merger when Fianna Fáil and the Green Party were in government and I am urging them to make their feelings known on this issue to their Fine Gael government partners. A merger would undermine the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and lead to a loss of focus and expertise.
“If the government is to live up to its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally recognised agreement, then they must ensure these institutions are protected.”