Repeated budget cuts continue to hamper the operations of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC).
The Commission’s £1.1m annual budget almost halved, in real terms, since 2010. Its staff number was also reduced from 32 in 2009 to 14 at present.
“Our ability to take strategic legal cases to challenge human rights violations is severely restricted by our budget,” NIHRC’s chief commissioner Les Allamby said.
The funds of NIHRC, established under the Good Friday Agreement, come from the Northern Ireland Office. As a body focused on human rights, NIHRC aids individuals facing human rights-based legal issues as well as taking their own cases to court.
Allamby told BBC that the organization already underwent eight annual budget cuts.
“Within this budget, we are required to provide a range of public services including taking strategic legal cases, providing advice to government on critical issues such as Brexit, carrying out investigations as well as promotion and education,” Allamby said.
One of NIHRC’s most critical cases recently was a Supreme Court challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. The case, which lasted over five years, reached a total cost of £225,000.
The Commission claims that it received more than 400 public requests for assistance in the last financial year.
“The organisation will continue to take a can-do practical approach to its mandate to protect and promote the human rights of everyone in Northern Ireland,” Allamby said.
“To do that, we need a decent financial platform. As a statutory public body, we are obliged to live within our means, nonetheless it would be remiss of us as an organisation not to highlight the difficulties we face in fully meeting our mandate,” Allamby added.
NIHRC is a national human rights institution with A status accreditation from the United Nations (UN). NIHRC, while funded by the UK government, remains an independent public body that abides by the UN Paris Principles.