Human Rights across the UK and Ireland in 2015 and beyond
17 December 2015
The Chairs and Chief Executives of the National Human Rights Institutions for Ireland, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Scotland met on 2 December to share progress and discuss future collaboration. As NHRIs, we all have duties to advise our governments and to promote awareness, understanding and protection of human rights, equality and good relations. Our discussions included:
• the refugee crisis: all of the European NHRIs are working to support the maintenance of human rights and international obligations in the treatment of asylum seekers, in a fast-moving and contentious context. As refugees settle into new countries and communities, there will be challenges for all of us in supporting their integration.
• responses to government spending policy: we shared information on the work that each of us is doing to help our governments to analyse and explain the equality and human rights implications of their spending decisions. We discussed the need for an overall assessment of individual decisions, in order to understand the cumulative impact of the many changes on groups such as disabled people and single mothers.
• the UK Human Rights Act: we reiterated the shared position of the UK NHRIs that, in whatever final changes are put forward by Government, there should be no reduction of the human rights protection and redress offered by the current Act. The interaction of the Act with the devolution settlements and the Northern Ireland peace agreement creates some very complex issues around any proposed changes and we will be working closely together on our responses to the forthcoming consultation.
The group also discussed recent significant successes, such as the NI abortion case and the introduction of gay marriage in Ireland, and current concerns, such as the treatment of transgender prisoners. We congratulated the IHREC on its strong progress since its establishment a year ago, and the group thanked Onora O’Neill and Alan Miller for their immense contributions during their time in office.