Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence has announced the names of 14 new members designate of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).
Those appointed for a five year period include: Professor Siobhán Mullally, Professor of Law UCC Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration The Hague, Member of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action Against Human Trafficking; Ms Teresa Blake, Chairperson of Mental Health Tribunal, Barrister; Ms Orlagh O’Farrell, Lecturer in employment and equality law NUl Maynooth, Member of Community Legal Resource network. Director of Equality and Rights Alliance (ERA), Consultant on equality and discrimination issues; Ms Sunniva McDonogh, Barrister ‘ Senior Counsel, Member of Property Services Appeals Board, Member of Penal Strategy Review Group; Professor Ray Murphy, Professor of Law, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. Member of Human Rights Institutes; Mr David Joyce, Barrister and lecturer TCD and former legal policy officer with the Irish Traveller Board; and Mr Fidele Muwarasibo, Integration Manager, Immigrant Council of Ireland.
Seven people have been appointed for a three year period including: Ms Mary Murphy, Lecturer in Irish Politics and Society, NUl Maynooth; Ms Betty Purcell, Television Series Producer Lecturer in Dublin City University External examiner of Griffith College; Ms Heidi Foster Breslin, Director of Exchange House National Travellers Service, Non Executive Director of MABS, Trustee of Common Purpose Ireland; Mr Frank Conaty, Chartered Accountant, Former Chair and current member of National Parents and Siblings Alliance since 2002; Mr Mark Kelly, Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL); Mr Kieran Rose, Chairperson of GLEN, Senior with the Offices of International Relations and Research in Dublin City Council; and Mr Liam Herrick, Irish Penal Reform Trust.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter stated that “legislation to set up the new body is expected to be published before the end of the summer term and, in the meantime, the members of the new Commission will take up their positions on the two existing bodies that are being merged, the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission. This will both fill the existing gap at ‘board’ level in the two organisations and ensure that the two organisations can begin operating as a cohesive whole.”
A Chief Commissioner has not been appointed according to the selection panel. The terms on which this post was advertised included a requirement that the person to be appointed should not have served on either the Equality Authority or the Human Rights Commission. The requirement was considered essential to ensure that the new Chief Commissioner would bring balance and neutrality to the position in a sensitive merger context.
The Selection Panel suggests also that the full-time nature of the position and the length of the contract (five years) may have been an issue that militated against a successful recruitment. The Minister will invite the group of 14 persons who have been selected to select one of their number for appointment to chair both the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority pending recruitment of a Chief Commissioner.
The Minister considers this issue requires time for reflection and consultation and that the debate on the Bill in the Houses of the Oireachtas will be an opportunity to explain the difficulty that has arisen and to invite suggestions. Therefore the Minister intends to reflect on how to progress recruitment of a Chief Commissioner in the light of the debate on this issue in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Once the Bill is enacted, he will bring his proposals to Government.
The Minister considers that future selection of persons to serve as members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission should be vested in the Public Appointments Service (PAS). The PAS has existed in its different forms since the foundation of the State, to ensure integrity and impartiality in the appointment of civil servants and other public servants and is independent in the discharge of its functions and would thus fully meet the Paris Principles’ requirement for a selection process independent of Government. This is a change in the selection process as originally adopted in the General Scheme which the Minister considers is now required in the light of experience. The Minister notes that use of the PAS was one of the other options considered by the Working Group set up to advise on practical arrangements for establishment of IHREC in its report.