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SF welcomes Irish Human Rights Commission enquiry but questions Government commitment to body

11 February, 2005


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the announcement that the Irish Human Rights Commission is to hold its first enquiry, and will examine the implications of present social welfare law and practice for human rights in the state.

However, the Sinn Féin Deputy questioned the Government‚s commitment to the body and asserted that we should be much further on in protecting human rights in Ireland in the seven years since the Good Friday Agreement mandated the establishment of Human Rights Commissions on both sides of the border.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I welcome as a positive development the announcement today by the Irish Human Rights Commission that they are to hold their first enquiry. There are many pressing issues in the state that warrant similar scrutiny including emergency legislation, Garda management and practice, immigration law, the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled, the treatment of people in custody and people in nursing homes, the treatment of Travellers. I believe this is a mechanism the Commission can usefully adopt in reviewing the law and practice in other areas as it relates to peoples' human rights, and I look forward to future enquiries into these other areas of concern.

"The establishment of the two Human Rights Commissions was a welcome outworking of the Good Friday Agreement, and one which Sinn Féin championed. However we are disappointed that seven years after the Good Friday Agreement we haven‚t come nearly as far as we should on human rights in either jurisdiction. There are many areas which the two Commissions should be addressing which they are not. The biggest obstacle in this state, however, is lack of commitment on the part of the Irish Government who have financially starved the Human Rights Commission and whose Minister for Justice has treated it with open contempt.

"We were not surprised by the recent independent report which concluded that the Northern Human Rights Commission is in crisis. But there also needs to be an integrated assessment of the work of the two Commissions to date to see it they are having the desired impact on improving and protecting human rights in Ireland. We also need the two Governments to live up to their responsibilities. So far they have been less than committed to the work of the Human Rights Commissions. This attitude must change." ENDS

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