Funding boost for NIHRC after review finds budget ‘inadequate’

Funding boost for NIHRC after review finds budget 'inadequate'

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is to receive a funding boost after an independent review found its budget is “inadequate and restricting its ability to deliver its statutory duties”.

The review was commissioned largely in response to the UN deferring a decision on NIHRC’s re-accreditation as an A-status national human rights institution (NHRI) due to concerns about its funding and capacity to operate.

The 19-page report by lead reviewer Simon Routh-Jones makes a series of recommendations to both the UK government and NIHRC itself.

The UK government says it accepts “the majority of the recommendations” and will provide an “exceptional uplift” to NIHRC’s 2023/24 budget.

The government said it supports “in principle” the call for a comprehensive budget review similar to that used to establish the baseline budget for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and will begin working on a terms of reference with NIHRC and the Northern Ireland Office.

NIHRC has said it accepts all of the recommendations within the report, which includes adopting a “more strategic” approach to litigation.

The government has rejected the report’s recommendation that it should explore introducing a scheme to indemnify NIHRC against the risk of high costs for defensive cases or other cases where the NIHRC involvement is vital but costs are prohibitive.

The Human Rights Consortium (HRC), a civil society coalition of over 160 organisations, welcomed the outcome of the review.

Kevin Hanratty, HRC director, said: “A well-resourced and independent human rights commission is key to delivering the core role it was envisaged to have within the human rights protections guaranteed in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“We will review the other recommendations in this report with our members in the coming days but we hope that the core budgetary recommendations in this report can be actioned in order to secure the stability of the Commission into the future and herald a change in UK government attitudes to the place that human rights plays within our governance.”

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