Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts on Shatter's Views on Multiculturalism, More Powers for Human Rights Body

Minister Shatter made some interesting remarks at the release of the report of the Irish Human Rights Commission: “I reject the notion of parallel societies and belief that integration and not multiculturalism is the approach we have to take,” he said. “It is imperative that we encourage immigrants to be part of mainstream Irish society and not to perceive themselves as outsiders living apart from it.”

This is indeed a welcome statement from the minister, coming as it does in the aftermath of the Norwegian killings and the debate about multiculturalism. As I've argued previously, it is not multiculturalism that has failed but a lazy policy of appeasement of the most extreme elements within minority populations in European states. In the spirit of facilitating integration, the minister could take a highly visible, symbolic decision to terminate the ridiculous registration system for immigrants at the Garda offices near Pearse street. Such a system does not exist in the UK and the US, singles out immigrants as conspicuous outsiders, imposes an unnecessary financial burden in the form of fees, wastes an entire day of productive work - which many immigrants may not be able to afford, and produces benefits that are not immediately discernible. There are plenty of other less burdensome alternatives if the objective is for the State to keep tabs on immigrants. An electronic filing system can be easily created and integrated with the visa issuing offices.
Minister Shatter also spoke about enhancing the powers of the human rights commission: “We are reviewing the architecture of our human rights infrastructure to ensure that resources are used efficiently ... It is my intention to facilitate the commission playing an enhanced role.”

Among the reforms to be brought in under a new statute would be having the commission report to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights, he said.

In principle, this is also to be welcomed. But before committing additional resources, the appointment process has to be reviewed as any commission is only as good as its members. Secondly, there has to be clarity about its mission: is it a policy body or a more executive agency? From the talk about allowing the commission to bring lawsuits etc, it seems that some are intending a more executive function. This will require a different model of staffing and resourcing than one for a policy making and monitoring agency.

More at the Irish Times website.