Equality issues

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New equality and human rights body

The Seanad discussed the new equality and human rights body to replace the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 12th June 2012, 890-2).  Katherine Zappone (ind, Taoiseach nominee) raised the effectiveness of the new body in the light of a recent statement of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, that there would be a saving of €500,000 on the merger, especially granted the severe cuts that the bodies had already experienced since 2008.  


Replying for the government, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice & Equality, Kathleen Lynch told the Seanad that the minister was well aware of the cuts to funding of both bodies.  The working group that advised on the merger recommended that the new commission review its staffing needs to compile the evidence for the business case to meet essential additional staff needs over and above the staff complements of the two existing bodies.  The minister was open to having such a business case examined by the department in as favourable a light as possible.  In streamlining the governance of the agencies, with two chief executives and the 16 board members of the Equality Authority and the 15 members of the Commission, there were projected savings in the order of €500,000 a year and it was the minister’s intention that this be available to support the core work of the new commission.  New legislation would be published and enacted this year and the question of resources would come into focus when the new commission prepared its assessment of staffing need.  The selection process for the new commission would commence shortly with an independent selection panel.  


She elaborated that each department must make its case to the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform in a businesslike fashion. They were all aware of the difficulties encountered by the two organizations as a result of reductions in funding and the projects that they wished to undertake but could not do so because of lack of resources or expertise and that was what the minister was talking about.  In the event of there being gaps in the organizations, he has said that if the case is made to him, he will ensure it is looked on in as favourable a light as possible.