2 November 2011

The Working Group on the establishment of the new, enhanced Human Rights and Equality Commission is seeking input and ideas from civil society, members of the public and those interested in the future of human rights and equality in Ireland, on key questions arising from their Terms of Reference. This consultation process will help to inform the Working Group’s consideration of the functions, features and priorities of the new Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Working Group was appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter T.D., on 6 October and has met twice to date.

The key questions the Working Group is consulting on are:

a. What do people want the new body to do?

b. What features and functions does it need to do these things?

c. How should it be structured and what working methods should it use to achieve the above?

It is intended that the new Commission will be in place by the end of February 2012. As the Working Group has such a short timeframe for their work, the closing date for submissions is Wednesday 23 November 2011 at 5.30pm.

Contributions should not exceed 1,500 words and may be emailed to

Further information is available from the Working Group’s Secretariat, Department of Justice and Equality, Floor 2, Bishop’s Square, Redmond’s Hill, Dublin 2.


Note to Editors:

Details of the membership of the Working Group and its Terms of Reference are as follows:

Michael Whelan (Chair)
Michael Farrell Irish Human Rights Commission
Tom O Higgins Irish Human Rights Commission
Helen O Neill Irish Human Rights Commission
Lia O Hegarty Irish Human Rights Commission
Peter White Equality Authority
Kieran Rose Equality Authority
Ellen Mongan Equality Authority
Betty O Leary Equality Authority
Diarmuid Cole Department of Justice & Equality
Tom Cooney Special Adviser to Minister Shatter

Terms of Reference for the Working Group on the new Human Rights and Equality Commission (HREC) 

The Government has decided that setting up a new, integrated and independent Human Rights and Equality Commission (HREC) is the most effective way of achieving the shared aim of bringing about a culture of respect for human rights and equality. The HREC will retain the statutory powers and duties of the existing bodies, for example, the power to examine legislative proposals.

The purpose of this group is:

1. To identify best practice in each organisation and the structure and process through which the HREC can ensure respect for human rights, equality, diversity and the freedom and dignity of the individual and the practices in each organisation, if any, that require change and the recommended changes.

2. To identify the functions and areas of work of the existing bodies to be merged; what new functions should be added and the functions, if any, that should cease.

3. To outline how the existing bodies consult with service users; the actions, if any, to be taken to broaden the base of service users; how such processes have fed into the work planning of each organisation and to recommend how these arrangements can be improved for the purposes of the HREC.

4. To advise on what new methods the HREC might employ in carrying out its functions of providing information, education and so forth in the light of the experience gained by both organisations, bearing in mind the overall economic position and the costs of campaigns run to date.

5. To examine the existing internal structures of both bodies and identify what changes are necessary in the HREC.

6. To recommend the best location for the HREC.

7. To advise on the best staffing arrangements bearing in mind:
· the Paris Principles;
· the need to ensure continuity of staff service;
· the need to ensure that the skills available to the Commission are appropriate and sufficiently flexible for the Commission to respond to new challenges while at the same time providing career development opportunities for staff.
· the overall current economic position and the limited resources of Government.

8. To advise on what would be the best practice for the HREC in devising specific objectives and what performance indicators should be used to measure the attainment of the objectives.

9. To advise on the best approaches or means to achieving change - for example making greater use of codes of practice or of strategic cases to achieve changes. Is there a view on which might achieve the greater outcome. Court cases tend to involve the State in one way or another. Would greater use of codes of practice be effective in wider society?

10. To advise on the best form of enquiry powers, and, in particular, to consider whether adopting the model used for Cloyne might be more effective than the current enquiry power.