Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.25 27 Apr 2020


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The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) says more information is required to assess new policing laws brought in in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commission met on Friday as part of its ongoing consideration of the human rights and equality implications of the crisis.

It has previously said it believes that emergency actions to protect individual lives and public health during this emergency should be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

Following the meeting, it says it intends to pursue three issues.

It says more information is needed on the implementation of the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020, which relates to policing powers, to assess whether these new powers are being exercised proportionately - and whether they are being implemented in line with human rights and equality principles.

The commission says "more detailed data is required to consider how the implementation of this legislation is impacting people in different sectors of society, and it will be contacting the Garda Commissioner in this regard."

It also says the coronavirus crisis is already impacting, and will continue to impact, different people more acutely than others - including older people, people with disabilities, residents in direct provision, Travellers, homeless people and people experiencing domestic violence.

The commission has recommended setting up a mechanism to provide "close parliamentary oversight of the implementation of emergency legislation" as a matter of urgency.

It believes that the most appropriate mechanism is an Oireachtas Committee on Human Rights, Equality and Diversity - which would have a cross-departmental mandate to examine the legal, social and economic rights implications of COVID-19.

 The establishment of such committee has been recommended by the commission since 2016.

But, it says, in the absence of such a committee, the human rights and equality implications should form part of the work of a dedicated Oireachtas committee overseeing the COVID-19 effort - or the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality.

And finally the commission says it will keep the exercise of emergency legislation and other State responses to the crisis under active review.

Acting Chief Commissioner Tony Geoghegan says: "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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COVID-19 Pandemic Covid-19 Emergency Legislation Human Rights IHREC Irish Human Rights And Equality Commission New Laws Oireachtas Committee Parliamentary Oversight Policing Proportionate Tony Geoghegan

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