Independent body must replace Garda Complaints Board
Sinn Féin representatives who attended a major Human Rights Conference in Dublin Castle last Saturday, 9 December, were critical of the government's controversial decision to appoint to the new Human Rights Commmission a panel significantly different to that orginally recommended.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also called for a range of reforms by the 26-County government. He said:
``The Irish government must not only fulfill its human rights obligations but, in the context of the peace process, it must also gives a lead on human rights issues.
``I call for the repeal of the Offences Against the State Acts which have infringed civil rights in the 26 Counties since first enacted in 1939. The current Review of these Acts, established under the Good Friday Agreement, should be expanded to include public hearings around the country. There needs to be a real debate on this issue and we need to hear the voices of the many people in this state who have suffered injustice as a result of the use and misuse of this legislation.
``The killing of John Carty and the victimisation of the McBrearty family in County Donegal are but the latest cases which highlight the need to establish an independent agency to investigate complaints against the Garda Síochána. The Garda Complaints Board, in which gardai investigate gardai, should be wound up and replaced with an effective and autonomous body.
``One of the greatest single violations of human rights in this state was the Dublin/Monaghan bombing outrage of 1974. The call of the relatives for a full cross-jurisdictional public inquiry should be honoured by both the Irish and British governments. This and a number of other cases in the 26 Counties where there is evidence of British intelligence and loyalist collusion and the compromising of gardai by British intelligence, must be faced up to.''
Sinn Féin Assembly member Bairbre de Brún, who also attended the human rights conference, said that the decision of the Irish Government to ignore the recommendations of its own selection panel to the new Human Rights Commission ``has the potential to undermine the work of the body before it has even got started''.
De Brún said:
``The Irish government has only ratified one of eight people its own panel proposed for membership of the Human Rights Commission. This risks undermining the broad role which was envisaged for the Human Rights Commission. The process of public advertisement and selection might as well never have happened.
``The Human Rights Commission is a direct result of the Good Friday Agreement. Its importance cannot be understated and the fundamental role envisaged for the Commission across a whole range of human rights areas on the island is now being put at risk.
``The approach of the Irish government to this key commitment under the terms of the Agreement has been hugely disappointing. Already the Commission is running over a year behind schedule and there is now a real fear that the broad range of opinions and experience necessary for the Commission to fulfil its remit will not be achieved by the current approach being adopted by the Irish government.''
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin expressed disappointment that in the nominations for the new Human Rights Commission the government had not included representatives from a broader section of society. He said: ``By departing from the panel as originally recommended the government has excluded some sectors. I would urge an increase in the numbers on the Commission to include, for example, a representative of the Traveller community.''