[Sinn Fein]

17th July 2003

SF Seek Meetings Over Human Rights Commission

Sinn Fein spokesperson Bairbre de Brún has written to both the British and Irish governments seeking urgent meetings in light of the resignation of Patrick Yu from the Human Rights Commission and the Westminster Joint Committee on Human Rights Report.

Ms de Brún said:

`` Patrick Yu is the fourth person to resign >from the Human Rights Commission. Both Inez McCormack and Prof. Christine Bell who have previously resigned also cited serious disaffection within the Commission and the actions of some Commissioners in undermining the equality provisions of the Agreement as the reasoning behind their resignations. Inez McCormack and Prof. Bell expand further upon this in today's press.

`` Earlier this week the Westminster Joint Committee Report expressed concern at the lack of independence, representativeness, resources and powers of the Commission. Sinn Fein shares those concerns.

`` Of particular concern was the interference by former PSNI Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan in the work and independence of the Commission regarding the Holy Cross issue last year. It is unacceptable for Ronnie Flanagan to attempt to get the Commission to disengage from upholding the human rights of the Holy Cross children. The Chief Commissioner's response to this interference is equally unacceptable.

`` With regard to the Bill of Rights, we welcome the recommendation of the Joint Committee that a round table forum should be convened to drive forward the Bill of Rights process. This should happen immediately. We are also concerned at actions by the Commission which could impact on existing legal equality provisions. I have written to the Chief Commissioner in relation to this.

`` These are serious matters of concern to Sinn Fein and the wider human rights community. We are seeking to meet with both the British and Irish government at the earliest opportunity to discuss the current situation regarding the Human Rights Commission. The Commission is a cornerstone of the Agreement and we will continue to support a Human Rights Commission which is in a position to drive forward the human rights based society demanded by the Agreement.''

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