With the massive cuts in Budget 2009 for the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, both bodies have maintained their much reduced budgets for 2010. The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman has also maintained its 2009 Budget.
Danielle and Fergal have discussed the impact of the budget on children’s rights here, while Vicky has commented upon the increases and cutbacks in the criminal legal aid scheme and criminal justice here. Eilonoir has noted the increases and cutbacks for those with disabilities here.
I will concentrate on the other areas within the broad human rights and equality infrastructure in this post. The Law Reform Commission will seen a cut in its budget of 31% for 2010. The Office of the Ombudsman will see an increase in its budget, while the Legal Aid Board will have it’s 2010 budget decrease by 5%.
The overall effect of the budget on human rights and equality infrastructure should not be underestimated. However, it seems that much of this damage was inflicted upon the IHRC and Equality Authority in 2009, which has affected them in a number of ways. In particular, the National Disability Authority, has seen an increase in its funding. This increase is to be most welcome in light of the cuts which those with disabilities who need to rely on welfare during the recession will face. However, other bodies and programmes, who ensure or argue for the protection of human rights, such as the Legal Aid Board, the criminal legal aid scheme, the IHRC and the Equality Authority have either seen decreases in funding, or have maintained previous budgets.
The recent Equality and Rights Alliance report, Downgrading Equality and Human Rightshas noted the impact of the cutbacks to the IHRC and Equality Authority has had on its operations. However, for now, there seems to be little appetite amongst the government parties for ensuring these two bodies can deliver protect peoples rights to the fullest possible extent.
In relation to the cuts to the criminal legal aid scheme, this had been highlighted some time ago by the Minister for Justice (see here, however, see also HRiI’s symposium on Carmody). As Vicky rightly points out, these cuts may impact on the right to a fair trial. In addition, the cutbacks to the Legal Aid Board could further increase the waiting lists already in place.
A cynic may suggest that privileging of certain persons rights are taking place. Those deemed criminal; those without means to access the civil legal system; those pesky human rightsy bodies who demand rights for those ‘not like us’ or those who are feckless and deemed undeserving of human rights have either had their budgets frozen or cut.