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Posts Tagged ‘equality and rights alliance’

‘A Fairer Ireland: Equality and Rights At the Heart of Recovery’

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The Equality and Rights Alliance has produced a document which summarises the proceedings of their recent ‘Fairer Ireland’ conference.

Within the document are links to presenters’ slides and to youtube videos of their speeches. Part 1 of Colm O Cinneide’s speech, for instance – which makes some reference to the Equality Authority’s role in the Portmarnock decision – is here and part 1 of Karen Chouan’s (Equanomics) speech is here.

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The Equality and Rights Alliance and the Promise of a Counter-Discourse

November 25, 2009 6 comments

This post builds on a brief exchange with Padraig at the foot of this post, which reported on a speech by Colm Ó Cinnéide at the Equality and Rights Alliance ‘Fairer Ireland’ conference, which took place yesterday. An important report was launched at yesterday’s conference. Entitled Downgrading Equality and Human Rights: Assessing the Impact it focuses on two key issues. First, it outlines the impact of reductions in funding on the work of the IHRC and the Equality Authority. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it outlines fundamental structural deficiencies in the relationships between the human rights watchdogs and government departments which fatally undermine their independence.

The principal conclusions of the report are that:

• The independence of both bodies has been breached. The main points were identified as the behind-closed-doors system of selection and appointment, accountability to government ministers and departments rather than Parliament, civil service staffing and lack of financial insulation of budget from the caprice of government ministers.
• The budget cuts appear to have had a significant impact on the work of the Irish Human Rights Commission and an unquantifiable impact on the work of the Equality Authority. Indicators are presented that enable these issues to be tracked in a number of ways at several levels.
• The design of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, taken together, does not reach a modern interpretation of the full application of the Paris principles nor the ECRI recommendations, nor in the case of Equality Authority, the 2000 Race Directive.

The report does highlight some deficiencies in the IHRC and EA’s  operations prior to the recent budget cuts. Nevertheless, it is evident that neither organisation can improve – indeed the report doubts whether the IHRC can continue to function – on their current shoe-string budgets.

Joanna McMinn’s foreword to the report  outlines the task which the ERA has now set itself:

These are grim times for equality and human rights in Ireland. In October last year budgetary cuts were introduced that have reduced The Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission to sha-dows of what they were, and should be, in this recessionary period of growing economic and social inequalities.

The upheaval of autumn 2008 also marked a critical fracture in the development of Irish social policy. Given the scale of the cuts made, it is now widely acknowledged that motives really lie in political choices to reconfigure institutions of the state to reduce the values of equality, rights and solidarity rather than solely economic imperatives and value for money.

Equality & Rights Alliance (ERA) formed in order to resist this deliberate and politically motivated targeting of the Irish equality and human rights institutions. The Alliance has subsequently developed its role, positioning itself as an independent and critical voice for the reinstatement and strengthening of the equality and human rights infrastructure in Ireland. We believe that equality and human rights must be central to Ireland’s recovery and rebuilding, not something that can be discarded when it is an irritant or inconvenient.

Read more…

Human Rights Cuts Damage Our Standing Abroad

November 25, 2009 7 comments

The Irish Times has this report of a speech by Colm Ó Cinnéide at the Equality and Rights Alliance ‘Fairer Ireland’ conference, which took place yesterday. We have blogged about the issue herehere and here and highlighted important new research from the ERA here.

Ó Cinnéide spoke first about the international perception of this government’s reluctance to fund the national human rights watchdogs.

Ireland’s equality and human rights institutions had previously been acclaimed throughout the EU as best practice models. “At conference after conference across Europe, it was emphasised to me and to others about – from an external perspective – how strong the institutional architecture was in Ireland and how impressive the representatives of both the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission were throughout the 2000s,” he said…There has been, frankly, the perception . . . of a fall from grace from European best practice models to a set of circumstances that gives rise to questions…”

Ó Cinnéide also emphasised the consequences of Ireland’s actions for the promotion of human rights abroad:

There are concerns when a country in good international standing like Ireland carries out sweeping budget cuts to its equality and human rights institutions because there are issues of precedence… When countries with perceived good records do something, then it means that countries who are perceived to have not such good records have a precedent. He said Pakistan had recently cited Ireland’s blasphemy law as an example of best practice, at a UN gathering…Ireland has a history of leadership in international institutions in the UN and the Council of Europe on equality and human rights matters,” he said. “But then you have facts on the ground and you have government ministers in other countries saying ‘Well, is there a tension here between the rhetoric and the delivery?’”

 

Downgrading Equality and Human Rights: Assessing the Impact

November 24, 2009 1 comment

The Equality and Rights Alliance conference, A Fairer Ireland: Equality and Rights at the Heart of Recovery took place today in Dublin. At the conference, the ERA launched its report Downgrading Equality and Human Rights. This is a really thorough and informative report. The executive summary is available here at Irish Left Review.