The Minister for Justice and Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter T.D., today (20 April 2012) welcomed the report of the Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). The Report which was presented by the Group to the Minister yesterday will be published today (Friday 20th April 2012). The Working Group was established in October 2011 to advise the Minister on practical arrangements in relation to the merger of the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, including issues in relation to powers and functions for the new body and other issues to be addressed in the legislation to give effect to the merger.
The Minister thanked the Working Group, chaired by Mr. Michael Whelan, for its detailed examination of the issues. He also expressed his appreciation for the many suggestions and views contributed by members of the public and representatives from civil society which assisted the working group in their work. Following a public invitation, the Group received a total of 69 submissions from the public. These were considered by the Group and informed its deliberations.
In welcoming the formal presentation of the Working Group’s report today, the Minister said “I want to acknowledge the comprehensive and diligent way in which the Group’s members have gone about their work. I am delighted to receive the Report of the Group. I will read it carefully and bring my detailed proposals for legislation to give effect to the merger to Government in the coming weeks. While I haven’t yet studied the Report in detail and my colleagues in Government will also need an opportunity to consider it carefully, I can say that on a first reading it gives me a comprehensive and coherent package of recommendations that meet my key objective of creating a new and strengthened human rights and equality body, drawing from the strengths and best practices of both existing bodies and delivering a levelling up of powers and functions. The recommendations in this Report will ensure that Ireland’s infrastructure to promote and protect human rights and equality is strengthened and capable of operating in a strategic, effective way.”
The Minister also expressed his appreciation for the work carried out to date by the staff, Boards and Commissioners of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission, past and present. Each agency in its own right has made a significant contribution to developing equality of opportunity and respect for human rights in Irish society. He looks forward to the coming together of this body of expertise in the new Commission and the new synergies that will result.
The Minister noted the group’s assessment of the importance to the new Commission of having a strong strategic focus and the recommendation that it should take particular care to ensure that its resources are directed with clear strategic purposes. The Group concludes that success of the new IHREC will be measured, not by the number of legal cases taken, but by their impact in promoting its strategic goals.
The report of the Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Human Rights and Equality Commission is available on the following Department of Justice and Equality websites (www.justice.ie, www.upr.ie).
20 April 2012