31 July 2003 Edition
Human Rights Commission broken and in need of fixing
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP on Wednesday morning led a party delegation to meet with the Human Rights Commission. The delegation included Human Rights spokesperson Bairbre de Brún and Belfast Councillor Chrissie McAuley. Speaking after the meeting, McGuinness said:
"The establishment of the Human Rights Commission was a key component of the Good Friday Agreement which Sinn Féin strongly argued for and supported. We are, therefore, deeply dissatisfied at the approach of the Human Rights Commission, particularly in relation to its approach on fair employment provisions which could have highly damaging implications for equality as well as the Chief Commissioner's highly inappropriate behaviour in the Holy Cross case.
"Fair employment is a cornerstone of building a new society. If you cannot even measure what's wrong in respect of fair employment how can you possibly hope to tackle it? Ordinary people will not accept having the clock turned back to the days before monitoring of fair employment was introduced. Nor will they accept a society in which the rights of little children depend on the area in which they live or the religion of their family.
"The Chief Commissioner's response to the Holy Cross case has undermined gravely public confidence that rights will be promoted regardless of political background. The resignation of one quarter of the Commission's membership is a further cause of deep concern. A Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights recently identified serious problems with the Commission.
"Actions that threaten fair employment monitoring, 50:50 recruitment as recommended by Patten or voting safeguards in the Assembly will further undermine public confidence.
"The Chief Commissioner has failed to provide satisfactory answers to the concerns expressed about the way the Commission has developed under his stewardship. We have sought a meeting with both governments to discuss these concerns and the way ahead. We need to look at a restructuring that will include the composition and appointments, the powers and resources of the Commission. The Human Rights Commission is broken. It needs to be fixed.
"We approach this issue on the basis of wanting the best possible Human Rights Commission in place to drive forward the human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.
"In our view, there is a need for the British government to put in place the measures required to guarantee the integrity, independence and effectiveness of the Commission. We will vigorously pursue this matter with both governments in the time ahead."