Independence of new body the key to ensuring equality and human rights

20 April 2012

Legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) welcomes the strong call for a new Human Rights & Equality Commission to be fully independent of government. Responding to the report of the Working Group to Minister for Justice & Equality, FLAC said proposals that the new Commission should report directly to the Oireachtas, that it members should be selected by an independent committee and that its funding should be secured through a distinct, multi-annual budget line would all go towards creating a strong, effective and independent body.

"It is noteworthy and commendable that the report suggest that the new body should have all the powers of the existing Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority, and that there should be a new statutory duty on public bodies to have regard to equality and human rights in making decisions," said FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell.

FLAC believes that the establishment of this new body presents an opportunity to make a fresh start in repairing the damage done to both existing bodies by disproportionate cuts imposed by the previous government. The organisation welcomed the proposal that in future all staff of the IHREC should be directly appointed by the Commission and not seconded from government departments.

Sounding a note of caution, FLAC has warned that positive recommendations will be undermined if sufficient resources are not made available to the new Commission to carry out its functions and responsibilities. According to Ms Blackwell, "the existing Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority were severely hampered in their capacity to protect human rights and equality through excessive cuts to their budgets. To do the important job proposed, the new Commission must be adequately resourced".


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. FLAC made a submission to the Working Group on the proposed new body. The Equality and Rights Alliance, of which FLAC is a member, also submitted its proposals to the WG.