Order of Business: Merger of Equality Authority and Irish Human Rights Commission

11.12.2013

Senator Zappone:

I have a question for the Leader which I would have raised on the Adjournment but I would like some advice. We are all aware that this is human rights week. I have some issues around how human rights are upheld at a national level here. Last year when the heads of Bill on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill were published by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, he made a commitment to ensure that the body would be more effective, efficient and cohesive than the bodies before. He indicated that with the merger there would be saving of €500,000. He also admitted that the €4.4 million in funding made available for 2013 may not meet the new body's staffing and operational needs. Yet I understand that the new body's budget for 2014 has been cut again.

The Human Rights Commission operates on fewer than six staff members. The Equality Authority has 28 and during 2012 it operated with only one solicitor. That is unacceptable and unsustainable. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, recently said funding and staffing levels must be restored to a level which will allow the new commission to operate in an efficient and effective manner. At the recent launch of the two bodies' annual reports he indicated that some difficulties had arisen between his Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in reaching a consensus on the budget and staffing allocation for the long-awaited new body.

This is still going on but with the proposal from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, that the funding should be cut for 2014 and Deputy Shatter challenging that. Perhaps the Leader could advise me. Should I request both Ministers to come in and address these issues? Maybe we could get the negotiations completed to ensure we do not have a cut for 2014 to ensure the beginning of that very important body will be sustainable.

Human Rights
Human Rights
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