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Merging the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, was asked about the progress of the merging of the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission (Dail Eireann, Debates, 7th February 1012, 249-250).  He told Catherine Murphy (ind, Kildare N) that he had expected the report of the working group by the end of November 2011, but because of its extensive body of work, he now expected its report this month.  He had made it clear that the new body would retain the existing powers and duties of the existing bodies and the review group comprised four members from each.  Catherine Murphy pointed out that merging two organizations with two cultures was never easy – but would the minister take advantage of the opportunity to go further by introducing additional reforms?  The minister told her that we should have an enhanced commission that provided the best forum for addressing rights and equality.  He would be surprised if the review group did not suggest reform and innovations.  The report would be published and inform the subsequent Bill.  Legislation had been delayed because the group had taken longer than anticipated, but he hoped to have the Bill published soon after Easter.  The government was open to a body with real powers and which might have a slightly broader remit in some areas than the two current bodies.  The review group was given a broad remit.  He had been concerned that the Human Rights Alliance (sic- editor) was under-resourced compared to the substantial resources of the Equality Authority and he hoped that with one body there would be economies of scale and allow the work to be done at lower cost.  No financial sum was stated to the review body  but it would be conscious of how much money was available and the 2012 budget was not substantially greater than 2011.  The government took seriously its commitment to provide an enhanced equality commission.  The review group comprised good people who he knew devoted substantial time to their deliberations.