Written answers

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Department of Justice and Equality

State Bodies Establishment

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick, Fianna Fail)
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528. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has appointed a chief commissioner to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36241/13]

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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536. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the legislation to establish the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will be published; the work now underway within the Public Appointments Service to independently appoint a chief commissioner to the IHREC. [36249/13]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 528 and 536 together.

In April this year I announced the appointment of members designate of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. At that time I explained that the independent Selection Panel, which was established to carry out this task, had confirmed to me that it had not proved possible to recruit a Chief Commissioner at that time. The Selection Panel suggested that the full-time nature of the position and the length of the contract (5 years) may have been issues that mitigated against the successful recruitment of a Chief Commissioner. The position was designated as a full-time one as the Paris Principles, which govern the establishment of such bodies, contain a preference for a full-time Commissioners. When the Chief Commissioner position was advertised it included a requirement that the person to be appointed should not have served on either the Equality Authority or the Human Rights Commission. This requirement is considered essential to ensure that the Chief Commissioner will bring balance and neutrality to the position in a sensitive merger context and will remain as a requirement when the position is re-advertised.

In the light of the experience gained in the recruitment process to date, I consider as already announced 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 of the Bill, which I consider is now required in the light of experience. I note that use of the PAS was one of the other options considered by the Working Group set up to advise me on practical arrangements for establishment of IHREC in its report. My Department is in consultation with the Public Appointment Service in relation to the detailed arrangements in that regard and I hope to be in a position to make a further announcement shortly. Drafting of the IHREC Bill is at a very advanced stage and I expect to publish it in the autumn.

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