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The President of the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), Dr Maurice Manning, has launched the Commission’s Annual Report 2011.

This is likely to be the IHRC’s final report as the Government has proposed that it be merged with the Equality Authority next year.

At the launch Dr Manning, President of the IHRC for ten years, took the opportunity to outline some of the achievements of the Commission and also to address some of his concerns for the future merged institution.

He praised the work of the Commissioners applauding their “sense of integrity and independence … solidarity and common purpose”. He highlighted the importance of the “variety of membership” of the Commission and spoke of this as something which Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter TD should bear in mind when creating the new body.

Dr Manning welcomed the selection process for the new body set up by the Minister, which he feels can be open and transparent with the right Oireachtas involvement. However, he also spoke of his concerns regarding the staffing of the newly merged institution stating that must be in a position to independently hire its own staff at all levels.” He deemed this is necessary “both from a functioning and from a credibility perspective”.

Another key concern of the current President is the new proposed legislation which he feels is “narrower and more restrictive for our legal powers than the Human Rights Commission Act 2000”. Dr Manning urged the Minister to address his concerns on this matter.

The President also spoke of the lack of adequate resources of the IHRC and claimed that:”If this situation continues with the new body, it risks undermining the Government’s stated commitments to human rights in Ireland and risks creating an institution that cannot fulfil its statutory mandate.”

Finally, Dr Manning welcomed the fact that the new body would be accountable to the Oireachtas as human rights issues “permeate very many aspects of the work of the Parliament”.

Dr Manning then gave his thanks for the privilege of being President of the IHRC for the past number of years and wished the new Commissioner well in his or her future role.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD said while today marks the “end of an era”, it is also “a time of great opportunity”.