Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

The end of seperate/’independent’ equality and human rights infrastructures in Ireland?

July 24th, 2008 · 15 Comments · Equality, Irish Politics, Recession

Deaglán de Bréadún’s report in this morning’s Irish Times does not come a surprise. The Department of Justice had a meeting yesterday morning with the agencies linked to it and the Equality Authority, the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Data Protection Commissioner have been told their days are numbered.

Well they have been told that they’re to merge and ‘there’s no point fighting it – it’s going to happen.’

And there probably won’t be anyone else around to fight it anyway as it’s July, all the groups who seek the protection of the agencies involved are too stressed, too linked to government funding they are trying to keep and too busy working with marginalised commuunities to be able to fight it. Or even find the time heaven forbid if they were ‘consulted’!

Fine Gael want to see the quangos merge and sod the consequences. I bet the voices that are raised will say that the Government (and I mean the last 10 years of government) want to see the thorns in their sides that the Equality Authority and to a far lesser extent in my opinion, the Irish Human Rights Commission, neutered into something mangled and fiscal rectitude is such an appropriate excuse.

They tried to decentralise the Equality Authority but Roscrea got a lot of opposition by the staff and some quiet objections from some of the people who seek the advice and information provided by the authority. For me it was the authority’s research, watching brief and monitoring role which  was the one which caused the most pricks of conscience for some and headaches for a few and reassurance for others. The Equality Authority’s report for 2007 is being launched today – Carol Coulter has some examples of the work of the authority in respect of Gender Identity discrimination – I expect there will be a few rewritten speeches and a few interesting questions at the launch.

I’ll leave Damien and others to comment on the implications for the Data Protection Commissioners Office. (I doubt there will be many at the wake!) But maybe others want to join me in speculating on the effects of the merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority. How ‘natural a fit’ would these agencies be?

I’d love to think that this merger could be a new impetus for protecting and enhancing human rights protections and reinforcing the importance of equality of outcome for all – I’m not against change at all – it’s needed to challenge and develop policy and it’s implementation. However being told that it’s not worth fighting it and given it’s a Government Departmental Secretary doing the reorganising rather that a minister with a new zeal for policy reform does not bode well.

While reading the reactions regarding the social welfare administration changes the other day I was wondering about who’ll still be around in the non political arena (sort of what Giddens (gulp!) might have meant by ‘the third way’) to call the Government on the impact of their cuts/search for cuts? AKA Social Partnership! Perhaps there has been far too much time spent shouting at Lisbon and Sarkozy and taking the eye off the ball on the things going on at home?

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