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Chief Commissioner Advises N.I Affairs Committee on NIHRC Devolution Proposal

25 Feb 2013

The Human Rights Commission today provides evidence to the N.I Affairs Committee at Stormont on the Draft Northern Ireland Bill. The Commission currently reports to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at Westminster. The Committee is considering whether the Draft Bill should allow the Secretary of State’s responsibilities for the Commission to be devolved to the N.I Assembly and Executive at some future date.
NIHRC Chief Commissioner Michael O’Flaherty stated:
The Commission welcomes the opportunity to meet with the Committee today. We will be advising that a decision to devolve responsibility for the Commission is ultimately a political one. What matters for the Commission is that any potential new arrangements must allow it to carry out all of its functions independently of Government’ in full accordance with the Paris Principles.’
Further information:
For further information please contact Claire Martin on 02890 243987.
Notes to editors
1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
2. As part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill’ the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will be taking evidence in Stormont today 25 February’ at two public evidence sessions’ from leading members of the parties represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly’ an independent MLA’ the Clerk/Director General of the Assembly and from the Chief Commissioner of the NI Human Rights Commission. The Commission is expected to provide evidence at approximately 4.30pm in the Senate Chamber.
3. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’ Theresa Villiers MP published the Draft Northern Ireland Bill on 11 February 2013. Access the full draft Bill here. It outlines:
‘Devolution of responsibilities relating to Arms-Length Bodies:
Some functions relating to the Civil Service Commissioners for Northern Ireland’ the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the District Electoral Areas Commissioner are currently not devolved matters and must still be exercised by the Secretary of State. It may become appropriate to transfer these functions’ by agreement’ so that they become the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive at some future date. Any Northern Ireland-specific legislation at Westminster might’ then’ make provision to allow this transfer of functions to be achieved by future secondary legislation rather than requiring further primary legislation to effect a change.’

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