Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the Green Party Convention in Wexford this weekend. There is however excellent coverage online from bloggers and the Green Party themselves with livestreams, liveblogging, twittering TD’s and a convention blog page.
Tonight party leader and Minister for Environment, John Gormley, welcomed delegates to the conference. He brought good news – well he needed to!
One of the issues that has caused deep concern and upset in our party has been the changes to the Equality Authority. Those changes resulted in the resignation of Niall Crowley, a man of integrity and principle, and that was very regrettable.
At our membership meetings I undertook to have those changes reversed. And I’m very glad to report to you this evening that we have succeeded in our mission. The planned further decentralisation of staff has been stopped and a further review of funding for the Equality Authority to ensure that it can do its work effectively.
I want to thank the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice for their cooperation in this matter. It shows that we can work out those difficulties in Government.
The announcement has been greeted very positively by delegates but there is very little detail contained within. A couple of thoughts which are probably taxing the minds of many after tonights announcement and presumably will form questions being asked of and by Green Party members.
- Is the review announced tonight separate to the Value for Money Report undertaken by Deloitte and Touche last Autumn which has already been completed and the Department for Justice have not yet released?
- What can be done to repair the tremendous damage that has been done between the civic society sector, social partners and the Authority?
- What will happen regarding vacant positions on the Board to ensure independence, fairness and transparency?
- What is the situation facing staff who have already moved? Two separate legal sections in Dublin and Roscrea does not make much sense? Given the chairpersons admittance on Wednesday that calls for information and case numbers are remaining steady it surely makes sense to strengthen the legal department as much as possible.
- There are staff in Dublin who have been replaced recently and not decentralised. Does this announcement mean that no more staff will be decentralised and that other staff positions saved from financial cuts will also not have to move to Roscrea?
- Will the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission be finally made directly accountable to the Oireachtas and fully independent from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, as required by international law?
- I wonder if someone will also apologise to staff (present and former members) for the stress of the past few years. They’ve become political puppets as decentralisation was used as a weapon against a successful respected agency protecting those most at risk in our society, and not as an infrastructual investment feature of state policy.
Joanna McMinn, Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland was a guest speaker at tonights conference. She is also Chairperson of the Equality and Rights Alliance. Joanna welcomed the announcement but pointedly referred to assertions earlier in the week that it was business as usual at the Equality Authority and said it could not be the case. The news was “a step in the right direction” towards rebuilding Ireland’s equality and rights infrastructure but no organisation can survive a 43% budget cut intact and Joanna also pointed to the situation facing the Irish Human Rights Commission – who have had their budget cut by 24%.
If anyone didn’t believe me through the past 8 months of blogging the cuts, threats and censorhip, well maybe today’s column puff piece by John Waters may have convinced you of the game being played. I assume the Green Party are aware of the state of play and will be using video replays and postmortems aplenty at each stage of the next few vital months monitoring the possible restoration of human rights and equality infrastructure of the state. No pressure so!