Irish Republican News · July 2, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Another member of the Human Rights Commission has resigned, claiming the body’s failure may have been orchestrated by the British government.

Patricia Kelly, who has been a commission member since 1999 despite a prolonged state of crisis, also accused the British government of sending out a message that it “is content with the mess the Human Rights Commission is in”.

Ms Kelly’s resignation is the seventh departure from the commission, leaving only a rump of its unlucky original 13 commissioners.

It was one of the most prominent organisations born out of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and had been a particular ambition of nationalist negotiators.

the most bitter split came over the commission’s link to a legal case relating to the loyalist protest at Holy Cross Girls’ School in 2001.

The head of the commission was seen to be lending private support to the PSNI police at a time when Catholic schoolgirls and their parents were allowed to endure a gauntlet of sectarian abuse and violence.

In the wake of the resignations, the commission drafted an ‘Action Plan’, aimed at underlining its independence. Ironically, a leaked memo showed that the British government helped in the drafting the plan.

Ms Kelly also expressed concern at job advertisements recently issued in connection with the formation of the ‘revamped’ commission.

She said the new chief commissioner’s post had been advertised as a possible part-time job.

“They (the adverts) are ambiguous about the number of commissioners to be recruited. It is not clear that the new commissioners are to have human rights experience prior to appointment but they say they can get it after they are appointed,” she said.

“This flies in the face of what the Parliamentary committee recommended. Is this a downgrading of the commission?”

Ms Kelly said she had been “very frustrated” by the way the commission operated in general.

“Decisions were never acted on. There were consistent failures to record accurately commission meetings,” she added.

Nationalist representatives have called for new structures to restore confidence in the commission.

Mr Adams said the resignation was the latest in a series of events which underlined a failure by the British government to properly establish the Human Rights Commission, as envisaged under the Good Friday Agreement.

“The current Human Rights Commission has been discredited due to its approach on human rights and equality issues,” he said.

He also called for clarification on the government’s intentions for additional powers to be given to a new commission.

“These are matters which Sinn Féin has consistently raised with the British government,” he said.

“The British government must provide the necessary assurances that these legitimate concerns will be acted upon. The British government must demonstrate its commitment to human rights by acting on these concerns.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News