Statement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on the UK Draft Withdrawal Agreement

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has today noted the publication of the draft agreement for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and is now examining in detail the provisions relating to human rights and equality, in particular the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and accompanying annexes.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, as a part of the Joint Committee established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to consider human rights issues on the island of Ireland, stresses that its mandate is unchanged in any way in this regard because of Brexit.  The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes, however, Article 4(2) of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which states that the UK ‘shall continue to facilitate the related work of the institutions and bodies set up pursuant to the 1998 Agreement, including the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Joint Committee of representatives of the Human Rights Commissions of Northern Ireland and Ireland, in upholding human rights and equality standards’.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission welcomes Article 16(3)(c) of the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement, which includes a new legal provision relating to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, stating that the Special Committee overseeing the Protocol will ‘consider any matter of relevance to … this Protocol brought to its attention’ by the Joint Committee of the two Commissions, North and South.

As a part of the Joint Committee, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has worked closely with its Northern colleagues on a series of strategic engagements around Brexit, including prior to the 2016 UK Referendum. These engagements included briefing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement; meeting with the Tánaiste Mr Simon Coveney TD and his officials; meeting with Article 50 Taskforce Michel Barnier, Sabine Weyand and Nina Obermaier; meeting with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker MP, and DExEU officials; and meeting with Lord Duncan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

In March of this year, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission outlined, alongside the Northern Irish Human Rights Commission, six requirements for the final Withdrawal Agreement to meet the obligations of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

  1. Ensure no diminution of rights within the withdrawal agreement.
  2. Safeguard the North-South equivalency of rights on an ongoing basis.
  3. Guarantee equality of citizenship within Northern Ireland.
  4. Protect border communities and migrant workers.
  5. Ensure evolving justice arrangements do not water down rights.
  6. Ensure continued right to participate in public life for EU citizens in Northern Ireland.

While the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes a continuing recognition for its role as part of the Joint Committee, named in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement as a forum for the consideration of human rights issues on the island of Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission continues to focus on issues of equivalency of rights and the need to ensure no diminution of rights post-Brexit.

Within its formal role under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission intends to monitor rights and equality protections as we would any international treaty, should this draft agreement enter into force.

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

 

Notes to editor:

The Joint Committee Established Under the Good Friday Agreement

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement’s section on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunities, provides for a joint committee of representatives of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, ‘as a forum for the consideration of human rights issues in the island of Ireland’.

The founding statutes of both the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission have ensured a formal basis in law for the Joint Committee.

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, as an international treaty, recognised by the United Nations, laid down a mandate for both national human rights institutions, and the mechanism to ensure strong cooperation between them.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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