Irish Republican News · March 29, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Human Rights Commission chief to quit

The head of the scandal-plagued Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has confirmed he is to leave the post.

Brice Dickson said he would be quitting the position of chief commissioner in February.

But he insisted this would merely mark the end of his second three-year-term in office, adding that he neither expected nor desired that his contract would be renewed.

At its height the commission had 13 members but following a series of resignations only seven remain.

The commission was formed under the Good Friday Agreement and was to be the flagship for defence of human rights.

But it struggled through a series of rows - the most serious centring on the loyalist intimidation of schoolgirls at Holy Cross school in 2001.

Last year it emerged that after the commission had agreed to fund a Holy Cross parent in a legal challenge of the policing of the protest, Mr Dickson privately wrote to then chief constable Ronnie Flanagan saying he did not believe the case had merit.

Mr Dickson rejected intense criticism for his action, and refused to resign.

The commission then published an 'Action Plan' underlining its commitment to ``remaining totally independent'' of government and police.

But leaked emails, believed to have been sent by Brice Dickson, suggested the plan was drafted with the aid of ``senior figures'' in the British government.

The two main nationalists parties and many different human rights organizations have been critical of his performance and have called publicly for him to be removed from this position.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Human Rights Caitriona Ruane said that Professor Dickson should 'go and go now'.

``His departure would hopefully provide the necessary space in which the range of problems which currently exist can be adequately addressed. These include powers, resourcing and of course make up.

``We would also have very real concerns about the mechanism to select new Commissioners after the current Commission steps down.

``Sinn Féin will continue to raise our concerns about the operation of the Human Rights Commission with the British government until the necessary changes are enacted to allow the Commission to fulfill the function demanded of it by the Good Friday Agreement.''

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© 2004 Irish Republican News