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16 Aug 2022

'Improve protections and supports' - Human rights commission calls for stronger legislation

'Improve protections and supports' - Human rights commission calls for stronger legislation

IHREC commissioner said that the organisation will seek to promote justice, promote the rule of law and improve access to justice

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called on the Government to address legislative gaps to tackle hate crime and racial profiling and said that legislation needs to be strengthened to deal with inequality gaps.

Outlining its strategy statement, an IHREC commissioner said that the organisation will seek to promote justice, promote the rule of law and improve access to justice.

The IHREC set out areas which it says should be prioritised in its work over the coming years.

These included economic equality, justice, respect and recognition, futureproofing and public sector duty.

Sunniva McDonagh, senior counsel and IHREC commissioner, said that human rights democracy and access to justice were particularly evident during pandemic.

Speaking during the launch on Thursday, Ms McDonagh said that the pandemic impacted people in vulnerable positions the most and exasperated inequalities.

She said that the State response to Covid legislation raised rule of law issues and what was guidance and what was legislation “was not always clear”.

Ms McDonagh also reiterated calls to end direct provision, saying the IHREC will monitor the White Paper on ending direct provision.

She also said organisation will also ensure the Government does not exercise “arbitrary powers”.

Ms McDonagh said that legislation needs strengthened to address inequality gaps, particularly areas that are lacking in dealing with hate crime and racial profiling.

She also said that it will propose changes that underpins investigations into State wrongdoing, and the IHREC will work to broaden access to legal aid.

Sinead Gibney, chief commissioner of IHREC, said its mission is to protect and promote human rights equality.

“We are calling for a rethink of Ireland’s approach to human rights,” Ms Gibney said.

She said that the IHREC will seek to give voices to those heard least and impacted most by decision makers.

Professor Kathleen Lynch, IHREC commissioner, said that economic equality impacts everyone, especially marginalised groups.

She said that recent figures show that the highest 10% earners in Ireland earn four times what the lowest 10% earn.

Prof Lynch said helping people to integrate economically and reduce inequality has to be a priority.

“Minority groups are adversely effected, they experience disadvantage and discrimination,” she added.

She said that the IHREC will respond to crises that threaten rights and equality.

“It means ensuring good work, affordable housing, healthcare and other affordable public services,” Prof Lynch added.

“Our objective is to improve protections and supports for those on low incomes.

“We will identify ways in which wealth inequalities can be addressed and improve access to appropriate housing, particularly those facing barriers.

“We will do it in a number ways including the highlighting of inequality.

“We will take legal cases to vindicate the right to housing, influencing housing policy and promoting research that will advance equality.

“We will examine ways in which wealth can be more equally distributed.”

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