Rights watchdog calls for ‘close parliamentary oversight’ of coronavirus laws

Rights watchdog calls for 'close parliamentary oversight' of coronavirus laws

Ireland’s human rights watchdog has called for “close parliamentary oversight” of emergency legislation introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission issued a statement this morning following a meeting on Friday to consider the rights implications of the COVID-19 crisis.

Its proposals include the establishment of an Oireachtas committee on human rights, equality and diversity, first proposed in 2016, which would have “the requisite cross-departmental mandate to examine the legal, social and economic rights implications of COVID-19”.

The watchdog will also keep the exercise of emergency legislation and other State responses to the crisis under “active review” itself, it added.

The Commission also intends to contact Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to seek more detailed data on the implementation of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 and its impact on “different sectors of society”.

It comes days after a coalition of eight organisations called for the publication of disaggregated statistics on infection and death rates according to nationality, ethnicity, disability, gender and age, as well as for statistics on infection and death rates in residential settings to be broken down further into care, detention and Direct Provision settings.

Speaking this morning, Acting Chief Commissioner Tony Geoghegan said: “The COVID-19 crisis is a challenge for the whole country, but it impacts some members of our society more acutely than others.

“As we move into a phase where we are going to be living with the threat of this virus for some time, it is critical that the principle of equality and the dignity afforded by human rights are central to efforts to keep people safe and healthy.”

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