Departures threaten survival of Equality Authority

CIVIL rights groups have questioned the survival of the Equality Authority after five more resignations from the cash-strapped agency.

The five board members, who resigned in protest at the 43% cut in the agency’s budget, represented the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, employers’ body IBEC, and the Carers Association.

ICTU said last night it would not nominate replacements despite the fact that a properly constituted board is supposed to include their representatives.

The resignations follow the departures last month of chief executive Niall Crowley, and board member Therese Murphy of the National Women’s Council. They too said the Department of Justice’s decision to slash the authority’s budget from €5.9m to €3.3m would make it impossible to meet the demand to investigate discrimination cases or to properly fulfil its obligation to educate and inform.

In her resignation letter to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, ICTU’s Louise O’Donnell said his promises that the authority would still be able to carry to its core functions had proved to be empty.

“I have grave and serious concerns that the commitment you gave to the Dáil cannot be met and that the whole raison d’etre of the organisation has been undermined,” she said.

Frank Goodwin of the Carers Association wrote in his letter: “The recent decisions made by you are having, and will continue to have, a major negative impact on the quantity, quality and range of the work of the authority.”

The others who resigned were David Joyce of ICTU and IBEC representatives Finola McDonald and Denis Flynn. The Equality Rights Alliance, which represents 40 civil rights groups, said the resignations proved the cuts had devastated the Equality Authority.

“It is now clearer than ever that it cannot operate to even a minimal level,” said Alliance chair Joanna McMinn. Fine Gael accused the minister of “bludgeoning the life out of the organisation”. A spokesman for the minister said he would move swiftly to fill the board vacancies.

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