Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, today announced the names of 14 new members designate of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).


The persons nominated were selected by an independent Selection Panel set up for that purpose.  Speaking today the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter said, "In October 2011, the Government agreed in principle to merge the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority into an enhanced Human Rights and Equality Commission.  The purpose of this change is to promote human rights and equality issues in a more efficient, effective and coherent way.  The objective of this body will be to champion human rights, including the right to equality.


"Legislation to set up the new body is expected to be published before the end of the summer term and, in the meantime, the members of the new Commission will take up their positions on the two existing bodies that are being merged, the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission.  This will both fill the existing gap at ‘board’ level in the two organisations and ensure that the two organisations can begin operating as a cohesive whole."


Once the new legislation is enacted, the 14 persons selected will be appointed to IHREC for a term of either 3 or 5 years (as indicated on the attached list) in accordance with the General Scheme.  This provision is to ensure that the term of office of all members of the new Commission will not come to an end at the same time so as to preserve institutional continuity.


Unfortunately, the Selection Panel has reported that it has not proved possible to recruit a Chief Commissioner at this time.  The terms on which this post was advertised included a requirement that the person to be appointed should not have served on either the Equality Authority or the Human Rights Commission.  The requirement was considered essential to ensure that the new Chief Commissioner would bring balance and neutrality to the position in a sensitive merger context.


The Selection Panel suggests also that the full-time nature of the position and the length of the contract (5 years) may have been issues that militated against a successful recruitment.  The position was designated as a full-time one in view of the Paris Principles preference for full-time Commissioners.


The Minister considers this issue requires time for reflection and consultation and that the debate on the Bill in the Houses of the Oireachtas will be an opportunity to explain the difficulty that has arisen and to invite suggestions.  Therefore the Minister intends to reflect on how to progress recruitment of a Chief Commissioner in the light of the debate on this issue in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Once the Bill is enacted, he will bring his proposals to Government.  


The Minister is very grateful to the members of the Panel for their unstinting public-service work on essentially a voluntary basis.  He considers that the experience of the process requires a critical review of the selection process set out in the General Scheme of the Bill as published. The scale of the task as it unfolded required that the Panel engage back-office assistance from the Public Appointments Service (PAS).   


In the light of the experience gained, the Minister considers that future selection of persons to serve as members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission should be vested in the Public Appointments Service (PAS).  The PAS has existed in its different forms since the foundation of the State, to ensure integrity and impartiality in the appointment of civil servants and other public servants and is independent in the discharge of its functions and would thus fully meet the Paris Principles’ requirement for a selection process independent of Government.  This is a change in the selection process as originally adopted in the General Scheme which the Minister considers is now required in the light of experience.  The Minister notes that use of the PAS was one of the other options considered by the Working Group set up to advise on practical arrangements for establishment of IHREC in its report.  


As it has not proved possible for the present to recruit a Chief Commissioner for IHREC, the Minister will invite the group of 14 persons who have been selected to select one of their number for appointment to chair both the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority pending recruitment of a Chief Commissioner.   


Members designate of Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission



Current Position

Appointment Period

Professor Siobhán Mullally 


Professor of Law UCC Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration The Hague, Member of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action Against Human Trafficking

5 Years


Ms Teresa Blake

Chairperson of Mental Health Tribunal, Barrister

5 years

Ms Orlagh O'Farrell



Lecturer in employment and equality law NUl Maynooth, Member of Community Legal Resource network. Director of Equality and Rights Alliance (ERA), Consultant on equality and discrimination issues

5 years

Ms Mary Murphy


Lecturer in Irish Politics and Society, NUl Maynooth 


3 years

Ms Betty Purcell


Television Series Producer


3 years

Ms Heydi Foster Breslin 


Director of Exchange House National Travellers Service, Non Executive Director of MABS, Trustee of Common Purpose Ireland.


3 years

Ms Sunniva McDonogh 


Barrister ' Senior Counsel, Member of Property Services Appeals Board, Member of Penal Strategy Review Group,

5 years

Professor Ray Murphy


Professor of Law, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway.  Member of Human Rights Institutes

5 years

Mr. Frank Conaty


Chartered Accountant, Former Chair and current member of National Parents and Siblings Alliance since 2002

3 years

Mr. David Joyce


Barrister, Lecturer TCD and former legal policy officer with the Irish Traveller Board

5 years


Mr. Fidele Muwarasibo

Integration Manager, Immigrant Council of Ireland

5 years


Mr. Mark Kelly

Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL)

3 years

Mr. Kieran Rose


Chairperson of GLEN, Senior with the Offices of International Relations and Research in Dublin City Council

3 years


Mr. Liam Herrick


Irish Penal Reform Trust

3 years


16 April 2013