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Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 150. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  if future appointments to the Human Rights Commission will be in full accordance with the Paris Principles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18742/02]

 151. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  when he plans to fulfil the terms of the Good Friday Agreement by making the Human Rights Commission fully operational; the reason this has not to date happened; the further impediments which remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18743/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

Under the provisions of the Human Rights Commission Acts, 2000 and 2001, appointments to the Human Rights Commission are a matter for the Government. In making appointments to the commission, the Government must have regard to certain statutory criteria relating to the qualifications of potential candidates as well as the need to ensure that the members of the commission broadly reflect the nature of Irish society. These provisions are based on the 1993 Paris Principles and the 1995 UN guidelines relating to national human rights institutions.

[1224]The Human Rights Commission was formally established by Ministerial Order on 25 July 2001. However, the former president of the commission, Mr. Justice Donal Barrington, who was appointed a year before, and the other members of the commission, having accepted offers of appointment in early 2001, had been meeting in an ad hoc capacity to begin their preliminary work. Since its establishment, the commission's principal tasks have been to select a suitable permanent premises, to draw up a work programme, to develop its corporate plan, to recruit its chief executive and to determine its optimum staffing requirements. In that period, the commission has also prepared and published views and submissions on important matters concerning human rights; put in place a system for dealing with complaints as soon as its administrative staff is in place; and, most importantly, it has established a joint committee of representatives with its counterpart in Northern Ireland, as provided for in paragraph 10 of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and in the legislation. That committee is currently considering all aspects related to a charter of rights for the island of Ireland, including the matter of ensuring full public consultation on the content and status of such a charter.

I wish to make it clear that no impediments have ever existed to the full operation of the commission. The process of establishment has been somewhat slower than expected, but that is due to the amount of preparatory work that had to be done by the commission.


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