31/07/2003

NI Human Rights chief under pressure

The head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has come under fire from the SDLP and Sinn Fein following two separate meetings on Thursday.

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Brice Dickson has been criticised in the past for his role in the Holy Cross dispute and last week said he could have handled the affair better.

Following today's meeting's Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness described the Commission as "flawed".

SDLP leader, Mark Durkan also criticised Mr Dickson saying a change in leadership was needed.

He added: "The recent controversy over the Commission's support for the Holy Cross case loomed large in our discussions today.

"We raised our concerns on the Holy Cross controversy with the Chief Commissioner and sought his response. While some issues were clarified, we were disappointed that other answers did not add up. Some answers were inconsistent and contradictory. Taken together, the answers provided do not amount to the credibility that is required."

"Brice Dickson has a long standing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. We are deeply saddened that this controversy has occurred," he added.

Today's criticism of Mr Dickson follows recent resignations by three members of the Commission who claimed it was "ineffective" in promoting human rights in Northern Ireland.

(MB)

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