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18 May 2021

The ‘Rights After Brexit’ virtual event, hosted by the Centre for Cross Border Studies, saw the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) listening to EU exit concerns, relating to human rights and equality, from civil society organisations from both sides of the border.

The event began with NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby; ECNI Chief Commissioner, Geraldine McGahey, OBE; and IHREC Commissioner, Sinéad Gibney outlining the new roles and responsibilities for each organisation post-Brexit.

The human rights and equality bodies highlighted the ‘no diminution of rights’ commitment in Article 2 of the Ireland /Northern Ireland Protocol and the role of the ‘dedicated mechanism’ in overseeing the commitment. They also spoke about their joint work on all island oversight arrangements relating to rights and equalities issues falling within the scope of the commitment that have an island of Ireland dimension.

The three Commissions discussed the impact of Brexit with a number of cross-border civil society and local community groups, including issues related to rights and equality as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies commented:

“Given the unique circumstances that pertain to the island of Ireland and the need to safeguard relations within and across these islands, it is vital that communities are aware of the important role of the Commissions in ensuring we all share the benefits of the highest human rights and equality protections possible, and that none of us lose the current protections as a consequence of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is crucial not just for Northern Ireland, but also for how we relate with one another on a North-South basis. I am delighted, therefore, that the Centre for Cross Border Studies was able to host this event”.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby said:

“We welcome the opportunity to engage with community representatives across the island. The Commissions together have a key role following the UKs withdrawal from the European Union to ensure the existing level of human rights and equality protections are monitored and maintained. Engagements like today are vital for us to hear about the practical issues people are facing following the EU exit, especially in border areas and rural communities.”

IHREC Chief Commissioner, Sinéad Gibney said:

“Over the last number of months we have put in place arrangements for working together to address the rights and equalities issues falling within the scope of the Article 2 commitment that have an island of Ireland dimension. We are meeting with cross border communities today to raise awareness of the dedicated mechanism, the all-island scrutiny role and to hear and discuss concerns about the impact of Brexit on rights and on equality of opportunity.”

Speaking after the event, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, Geraldine McGahey said:

“Today’s discussion on cross border issues was extremely informative and useful. The session highlighted some of the key issues affecting our border communities and we will use this evidence to inform the work of the Commissions going forward, including our all island scrutiny work. We look forward to continuing to working closely with, and hearing from, cross border communities and groups to ensure the continued protection of equality and human rights after Brexit.”

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