Principled politicians must stand up for human rights & equality
10 December 2008
Equality & Rights Alliance
Protecting Equality and Human Rights
On International Human Rights Day (Wednesday 10 December 2008), the Equality & Rights Alliance (ERA) is calling for principled politicians of all parties to stand up for human rights and equality.
A delegation of the Alliance, a coalition which represents 71 civil society organisations, will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights at 2.15pm on International Human Rights Day (the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).
Committee members will be told of the ERA's concerns about the impact of the savage cuts being imposed upon the budgets of the Equality Authority (minus 43%) and the Irish Human Rights Commission (less 24%). If these cuts are imposed, neither of the statutory bodies created to promote and protect human rights and equality in Ireland will be able to run a viable programme of activities in 2009.
Speaking on behalf of the ERA, Mr Mark Kelly (Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties) said that, "The Alliance is calling upon politicians of principle from all political parties - including those in Government - to refuse to endorse these budgetary cuts and to put the brakes on the decentralization of the Equality Authority. It is nothing short of scandalous that, on International Human Rights Day, we should have to come before our elected representatives to implore them to stand up for the protection of human rights and equality in Ireland."
The ERA delegation will also voice concerns about the fact that the advancement of human rights has been excluded as a charitable purpose in new legislation currently passing through the Oireachtas. Unless the Oireachtas acts to restore human rights as an express charitable purpose, the future charitable status of existing organisations which adopt a rights-based approach may be threatened.
Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) says that "In the absence of effective political support for human rights and equality bodies in Ireland, the deliberate exclusion of human rights as a recognized, valuable activity, beneficial to the community, seems to be an attempt further to muzzle legitimate criticism at home, while vaunting Ireland's human rights performance abroad".
Note to editors:
The Equality and Rights Alliance is currently chaired by the Director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, Dr Joanna McMinn.
The ERA delegation will include Mr Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Ms Anna Visser, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network; Mr David Joyce, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and Ms Phyllis Fahey, a 74 year old who was supported by The Equality Authority to take a case against a bank when she was told she was too old to get a car loan. Ms Fahey won her case, and has been able to secure a car loan.
The Justice Committee is currently considering the proposed cuts to the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority in the context of the supplementary estimates which form part of the Finance Bill.
The Charities Bill 2007 will proceed to its report (and final) stage in the Seanad on Thursday, 11 December 2008.