NI: Human rights and equality watchdogs adopt new post-Brexit roles
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) have taken on new roles overseeing the UK government’s commitment to protecting equality and human rights in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
The government committed in the Northern Ireland Protocol to ensuring “no reduction” of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity provisions included in the Good Friday Agreement as the UK withdraws from the EU.
It has also committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland will keep pace with changes in EU equality laws after Brexit. Following the end of the transition period, NIHRC and ECNI have been charged with overseeing this commitment.
In a joint statement, NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby and ECNI chief commissioner Geraldine McGahey OBE said: “The government’s commitment to protect human rights and equality following Brexit is very important for everyone living here, and both Commissions have been given an enhanced role to monitor and report on this commitment.
“These are important new powers and we will not shy away from identifying issues of concern and if necessary taking robust legal action to ensure there is no back-sliding in the levels of protection currently in place in Northern Ireland.
“We will use our new powers to ensure government upholds this commitment, including by assisting individuals, where appropriate, to take legal action if the Northern Ireland Executive or Assembly actions or legislation breaches this commitment.
“Where the duty to keep pace with future positive developments in EU law is relevant, we will also be vocal in advising the UK government and NI Executive on the need to introduce progressive measures that advance human and rights and equality for all.”
Both watchdogs will work with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to provide oversight of rights and equalities issues falling within the scope of the commitment that have an ‘island of Ireland’ dimension.