Irish Refugee Council resigns from Government Working Group to reform the Protection Process
Posted On: March 27, 2015
Media Release, 27 March 2015
On 26th March 2015, Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council, submitted a letter of resignation to Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and Minister of State, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, stepping down from the Government Working Group on the Protection Process which commenced work in November 2014.
In her letter of resignation to the Ministers, Ms. Conlan cited the publication of the Heads of the International Protection Bill by the Minister for Justice on 25th March without allowing the Working Group to have sight of or discuss the most significant changes in refugee law in Ireland for almost twenty years.
In her letter of resignation, Ms. Conlan said: “The decision not to allow the Working Group, which contains experts on international protection law as well as lay people, to have sight of and indeed comment upon the Heads of the Bill is regrettable. Unfortunately, from a first reading of the Heads of the Bill, my sense of it is that it is too much of an enforcement measure. Given the importance of the Bill, which contains much more than a single protection procedure, it is difficult to understand why the decision was taken to withhold it from the Working Group. It is an opportunity lost and may well make passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas more difficult as matters that could have been ironed out in the Working Group will now need to be brought in to the party political arena.”
Ms. Conlan said “Any attempt within the Working Group to propose change which involves legislation, such as putting accommodation and support in a Bill or changing legislation to extend the role of the Ombudsman or Children’s Ombudsman has been resisted by the Department of Justice. Coupled with the decision to then proceed with publication of the heads of the International Protection Bill without allowing discussion at the Working Group, makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Working Group is being used to rubber stamp administrative changes that the Department of Justice can then continue to control without parliamentary oversight.”
She concluded “We entered into this process in good faith and did everything possible to make it work. We feel that to carry on with the process goes against the best interests of the people in the protection system now and those who will come to Ireland seeking protection in the future. We have real concerns about the direction of the new Bill and need to work to ensure that its main emphasis is protection and not deterrence.”
Caroline Reid, Communications Officer, 085 858 5510
Sue Conlan, CEO of the Irish Refugee Council is available for interview
The Working Group was announced on 13th October 2014 by both Ministers under the Chairmanship of Dr. Bryan McMahon, a former High Court judge, in order to “report to Government on improvements to the protection process, including Direct Provision and supports for asylum seekers”. Sue Conlan accepted the invitation to join the Working Group on behalf of the IRC. The terms of reference set by the Ministers included “improving existing arrangements in the processing of protection applications” and “showing greater respect for the dignity of persons in the system and improving their quality of life by enhancing the support and services currently available.”