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O’Brien introduces Bill to strengthen Irish Human Rights Commission

21 September, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Justice and Equality Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has today 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.

Deputy O’Brien, speaking in the Dáil today said:

“This Bill would increase the remit of the Irish Human Rights Commission and give it the protections and status it deserves as a crucial element of the human rights provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“I think it is somewhat hard necked of Taoiseach, Enda Kenny to speak today at an IHRC event organised to celebrate its 10th anniversary while at the same time he plans to merge it with the Equality Authority and water down both bodies.

“The proposed merger is simply a cover for cuts and both of these organisations are already chronically under resourced.

“The Government proposal can only lead to a loss of focus and expertise in two distinct fields.

“I don’t know where the Labour party are in relation to these changes. They were very vociferous in opposition to a similar merger proposal when it was made by the previous Fianna Fáil led Government

“The Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore at the time accused that particular government of ‘trying to turn back the clock on the equality agenda’. He deemed such a merger an ‘ominous’ proposal.

“Obviously things are different now for both the Tánaiste and the Labour party.

“The IHRC was a very important component of the Good Friday Agreement, an international agreement between the Dublin and London Governments.

“The Government’s proposal would undermine the Good Friday Agreement as a whole by sending a message to any party to the agreement that the possibility exists to hollow it out one component at a time; and have no doubt there are those who would wish to do so.

“I call on all members of the Oireachtas to read the Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Bill 2011, to support it and to oppose the retrograde merger proposals of the Government.” ENDS

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