Irish Republican News · September 18, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Human Rights Commission crisis puts investment at risk
Human Rights Commission crisis puts investment at risk

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Equality and Human Rights, Bairbre de Brun, has expressed concern that the approach of the Human Rights Commission to fair employment and parity of esteem could put future investment in the North at risk.

"The actions of the Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson with regard to the Holy Cross school situation and the approach of the Commission to fair employment and parity of esteem may now impact to the detriment of the local economy," she said. "This must serve as a wake up call to everyone with an interest in the economic development of the North.

"Confidence in the Human Rights Commission has been eroded. Sinn Fein has argued for a programme of reconstruction in order to restore public confidence. It is imperative that the requirement under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement for an independent and effective Human Rights Commission is fully realised. The fact that continued failure to deliver on this requirement could now effect potential inward investment opportunities renders delivery all the more urgent."

In a no-holds-barred letter sent to the London and Dublin governments, the financial comptrollers of New York have branded the commission a "failed entity" that needs a "complete reorganisation".

City Comptroller William Thompson and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi outlined their concern that the Human Rights Commission, "one of the main institutions set up by the Good Friday Agreement", is now "being used to undermine key provisions of current fair employment legislation".

Thompson and Hevesi together control public investment funds of more than $180 billion, of which over $15 billion is currently invested in corporations doing business in the Six Counties.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, both New York State and City have actively encouraged US companies to invest in the Six Counties "in the understanding that progress would continue to be made towards equality and fairness for all".

But now the very body, the Human Rights Commission, established by the GFA and task to deliver human rights has become instrumental in undermining its achievement. As the letter points out, "the draft Bill of Rights produced by the commission jeopardises important legal protections for the Catholic minority community and greatly endangers years of progress that have been made in this area".

The commission recently rejected criticism of the Bill of Rights but three of its members have resigned over the issue. Of the original 14 commissioners appointed to the Human Rights body, four have left and a further two have withdrawn their day-to-day participation in protest.

The protest followed the emergence of a 'controversial' letter sent by Brice Dickson to the former RUC Chief Constable during the Holy Cross blockade in which he discredited the parents and pupils of the school who had complained about the lack of adequate policing.

The letter emerged during an application for a judicial review into the failure of the state to protect the children of Holy Cross taken by a mother against the British Secretary of State and RUC/PSNI Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan.

Bairbre de Brun said emerging evidence of the relationship between Flanagan and Dickson is a matter of concern. "The interference by the former PSNI Chief Constable in the work and independence of the Commission regarding the Holy Cross issue is of particular concern. It is unacceptable for Ronnie Flanagan to attempt to get the Commission to disengage from upholding the human rights of the Holy Cross children."

The New York letter cites Holy Cross as having contributed to their call for Brice Dickson's resignation. "The comptrollers describe Dickson as having been "hopelessly compromised" after becoming embroiled in allegations that "he took steps to actively undermine a key human rights case brought by the parents of the Holy Cross School, that was funded by his own commission". Thompson and Hevesi conclude that Dickson should be "urged to resign".

"There must be a complete reorganisation of the commission with the reconstituted body given full statutory powers, funding and independence needed to fulfil its mission," said the two New Yorkers.

© 2003 Irish Republican News