More power to your quango…

OUTGOING chief Human Rights Commissioner Brice Dickson has launched a blistering attack on the Government, blaming it for failing to provide the Commission with adequate powers. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster has also called for more powers for another product of the Agreement – the Police Ombudsman.Press Association reports:

In a lengthy letter to Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy, Chief Commissioner Professor Brice Dickson castigated the British Government for failing to give his commission proper powers, running down its numbers and ignoring or rejecting its recommendations.

Professor Dickson blasted: “I cannot help feeling that on many occasions your government is content to pay lip service to human rights without actually doing much to protect them in practice.”

He pointed to delays put in the way of disclosing the truth about the murder of Belfast solicitor Patrick Finucane, and Ministry of Defence “obstructionism” during the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

He cited “tolerance” of loyalist and republican paramilitary punishment attacks and the “appalling lack of support” for prisoners and young people with mental problems in Northern Ireland.

They were all “telling signs that New Labour is not quite the caring, right-orientated government that we hoped it would be when it was first elected in 1997”.

Prof Dickson retired at the end of this month after heading the Commission during its first six years, a time when he has often clashed with the British Government.