Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

248 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on progress in relation to setting up North-South human rights structures. [15022/02]

I presume that the question is framed in the context of the section in the Good Friday Agreement entitled Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity and, more specifically, the undertaking by both Governments to establish Human Rights Commissions in both jurisdictions North and South and the setting up of a joint committee of representatives of those commissions.

The Human Rights Commission Acts, 2000 and 2001, provide for an independent 15 member Human Rights Commission which has a mandate and remit at least the equivalent of its Northern Ireland counterpart. The Northern Ireland Commission was established under the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act, 1998, and began its work in March 1999. The commission in this jurisdiction had its first meeting in March 2001 and was formally established in July 2001. It has just recently appointed its chief executive and I expect that the full development of the Commission will now be achieved fairly quickly.

The joint committee of the two commissions has been established as provided for in the agreement and the underlying legislation, section 8(i) of the Human Rights Commission Act, 2000, and several meetings of that committee have taken place. As envisaged in the Agreement, the committee has commenced consideration of a draft charter to be open to signature by all democratic political parties.