Statement from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on Budget 2017

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), having welcomed the May 2016 Programme for Government commitments to advance equality and human rights proofing, has today urged Government to continue to progress the use of budgetary processes to build foundations for future budgets to advance human rights and equality.

The Commission welcomes the Government’s Budget 2017 commitment to enhanced participation and a more transparent, inclusive and effective budgetary process and notes this is consistent with key principles of human rights. The Commission looks forward to continued development of proofing tools, and welcomes proposals to develop greater capacity to analyse distributional impacts of public services and urges Government to, in future, publish a full Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of overall budgetary impacts with the budget.

Today’s budget reiterates the Government commitment to budgetary and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights, and sets out recent developments in budget process in which equality and distributional issues are directly stated.  We look forward to this being built upon in future budgets to explicitly address poverty proofing and the realisation of economic and social rights. We believe that future budgets should be assessed against human rights principles of maximising available resources to progressively realise human rights.

We note the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight Report on Budget 2017 recommendation, that a broad and stable tax base is necessary for sustainable budgeting to advance economic and social development. The report also acknowledges Ireland has a good deal further to travel before it has the structures and processes that match the benchmarks set by other advanced democratic states.

We note the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD’s identified objective of building a “just and fair society” and the importance of relative distribution of income in society as well as improved services, we welcome too his commitment to all shapes of families.

Clearly the relative fairness of specific measures can only be resolved with publication of forecasted data, and the information that influenced Government taxation and expenditure decisions.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes that to date Irish scrutiny and oversight processes lack sufficient capacity, but we welcome Government’s initial progress towards this direction, and are committed to playing our part in building the foundations for ex-ante budget and policy proofing in Ireland.

Specifically, we recommend, looking forward from today’s budget that:

  • Government establishes a national proofing committee to advance the institutional framework for proofing and ensure all Departments are involved.
  • Government departments, as part of their Section 42 Public Sector Duty, outline key human rights and equality statements, and link budget expenditure to advancing and realising such goals.
  • That the Ministers for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform include a human rights and equality statement in respective subsequent Budget statements, building on this year’s statement to include a statement on poverty proofing, and how the budget addresses economic and social rights.