Merger proposals would hit weakest and most vulnerable

24 September 2008

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Government proposals to merge up to five human rights and equality bodies would hit the weakest and most vulnerable in Irish society, says FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres).

FLAC said it was significant that when it came to merging or closing down agencies that came under the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, the first to be selected were bodies that empowered and supported people seeking justice and equal treatment.

No studies were carried out or consultations held before announcing that these bodies were to be merged. The only reason given was that it would save money, even though the five bodies are all underfunded and have very modest budgets at the moment. The projected saving of €20m in fact exceeds the combined budgets for all five agencies.

Attempts to set up a 'super' agency taking over those bodies are likely to cause confusion, undermine the independence of the bodies concerned and lead to a lack of specialist focus and expertise, said FLAC. The effect would be a poorer service for vulnerable groups and individuals.

FLAC was set up to give free legal advice to those who could not afford it. "We have worked with most of these bodies over the years. They should be strengthened, not undermined," said FLAC Director Noeline Blackwell.

"In a time of recession, the weakest are likely to go to the wall. Thus FLAC is also deeply concerned at reports that the Combat Poverty Agency may be subsumed within the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which would compromise its very important work and valuable independence," added Ms Blackwell.

FLAC believes cuts should not happen at the expense of human rights and equality for people in Ireland, especially when we are finally beginning to address deep-rooted societal issues.

More information on the campaign site of the Equality and Rights Alliance.

For further information, please contact

Yvonne Woods, FLAC Information & Communications Officer
FLAC, 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1

t: 01-874 5690 e:
t: 1890 350 250 (lo-call) w:




Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
  2. The five agencies in question are the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Equality Authority, the Equality Tribunal, the Data Protection Commissioner, and the National Disability Authority.