IHREC (designate) welcomes publication of IHREC legislation and calls for strengthening of provisions

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission designate (IHREC designate) today published its Observations on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill (IHREC Bill) 2014 in which it welcomed the imminent creation of a unified human rights and equality body in the State. While acknowledging improvements on the General Scheme of the IHREC Bill 2012, the IHREC designate in its Observations also makes recommendations to strengthen the Bill.

The Observations were submitted to Mr Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on 8 April 2014 as the Bill was introduced to Dáil Éireann.

Mr David Joyce, Acting Chairperson of the IHREC (designate) commented: “The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (designate) welcomes the publication of the IHREC Bill 2014, however, we believe it can be further strengthened by some key amendments to the legislation, such as adopting a unified definition of “human rights” across the legislation and ensuring that the precise responsibilities of the Chief Commissioner are made explicit”.

Mr Joyce continued: “The IHREC (designate) welcomes the creation of a new positive duty on public bodies to have regard to human rights and equality standards in their work. This could be further strengthened by requiring public bodies to take concrete measures to embed equality and human rights standards in the discharge of all their functions and by including a provision for enforcing compliance with the requirements of the public duty.”

 

In relation to the Inquiry function under the Bill, Mr Joyce continued: “We also recommend that its inquiry function not be the subject of direction from a Government Minister. We further highlight that the criteria in the Bill for initiating an inquiry are too restrictive and call for the threshold to be lowered and brought into line with the requirements under the Commission of Investigation Act, 2004 on which it is modelled. Finally, the IHREC should not be constrained in considering the full range of the State’s international human rights and equality obligations when conducting an inquiry, as this is an important aspect of the work of a national human rights institution and equality body.”

In concluding Mr Joyce stated: “A key concern of the IHREC is to ensure that there is one unified definition of human rights that would operate across the functions of the new IHREC, and reflect the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights. In certain parts, the Bill applies a more restrictive definition of human rights to both enforcement and non-enforcement functions, and the IHREC considers this may unnecessarily limit the impact of certain provisions, such as in relation to inquiries, providing information to the public and also the new positive duty.“

ENDS/

Notes to Editor

The Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority will merge to form the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill 2014 provides for the legislative basis for the new Body.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (designate) Observations on the IHREC Bill 2014 are available at www.ihrc.ie/publications/list/ihrec-designate-observations-on-ihrec-bill-2014/

 

 

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