The Irish Human Rights Commission is an independent body set up under the Human Rights Commission Act 2000 and Human Rights Commission (Amendment) Act 2001. The Commission was established as a result of a commitment under the Good Friday Agreement 1998.
The function of the Commission is to promote and protect human rights in Ireland and ensure that Irish law and practice of the Irish state is in line with international agreements to which Ireland is a party and the Irish Constitution. The Commission carries out this function by:
• Keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice
in the Irish state relating to human rights
• Consulting with relevant national and international bodies around human rights issues
• Making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights in the Irish state
• Promoting understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights
• Offering expertise in human rights law to the Irish courts
• Conducting enquiries into possible human rights abuses in the Irish state
• Taking legal proceedings to vindicate human rights in the Irish state
• Providing legal assistance to people taking legal proceeding involving issues of human rights. (This is subject to certain conditions)
• Participating in the Joint Committee of Representatives of members of the Commission and members of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The Human Rights Commission is made up of 15 people appointed by the government for a period of 5 years. The current Commission was appointed on 31 August 2006. Their term commenced on 2 October 2006. Under the Human Rights Commission Acts 2000 and 2001, not less than 7 of the members of the Commission must be female and not less than 7 members must be male.
The Commission can assist you to further human rights issues in Ireland by either holding an enquiry or assisting you with legal proceedings. An enquiry is where the Commission examines a particular case of possible human rights abuse in Ireland. It can be conducted in public or private as the Commission decides and has the power to require relevant information, documentation or people to attend.
If you want the Commission to conduct an enquiry into a relevant human right matter or to grant assistance in relation to legal proceedings involving issues of human rights you must first be clear what the human right issue is. When you make your request to the Commission:
• Be clear how the enquiry or legal proceeding is linked to the function
of the Commission
• Identify how the enquiry or legal proceeding could change how human rights are protected in Ireland
• In the case of legal proceedings, you must have made reasonable efforts to get legal assistance elsewhere, for example, Civil Legal Aid or Criminal Legal Aid.
The Commission cannot act beyond its powers. The Irish Human Rights Commission can conduct an enquiry or assist with legal proceeding if the case is linked to one of the following:
• A review of law and practice of the Irish State and its institutions
• Consultation with national or international bodies or agencies
• To make recommendations to Government
• To promote understanding or awareness of the importance of human rights.
In the case of legal proceedings, the Commission can only
assist if the case is linked to one of the following:
• The matter raises a question of legal principle
• Due to the complexity of the case it would be unreasonable to deal with the matter without assistance from the Commission
• The Commission has discretionary powers to assist in special cases.
The Commission is not an adjudicator body in respect of complaints of human rights violations in Ireland. It cannot offer remedies or compensation in cases where human rights have been violated. It cannot overturn court, or tribunal decisions, or require government departments to give entitlements to people who may feel they have an entitlement. It can however, conduct an enquiry to find out if existing law or practice meets human rights standards, or take or assist with legal proceedings.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.