Paterson: “The outgoing Chief Commissioner and Commissioners have made a valuable contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights in Northern Ireland”

The BBC notes the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s announcement of the appointment of the 8 new members of the NI Human Rights Commission.  And, with the possible exception of the replacement for Monica McWilliams as Chief Commissioner, Professor Michael O’Flaherty, what a fine collection of legal minds special interest groups they represent.  Owen Paterson’s press release contains brief summaries of the appointees’ careers.

Professor Michael O’Flaherty holds the Chair in Applied Human Rights and is Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham . Since 2004 he has been an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (re-elected in 2008) and is currently a Vice-Chairperson. He is also a member of the UN Expert Group on Human Rights Indicators. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. He read law at University College Dublin (BCL), theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University , Rome (BPh, STB), international relations at the University of Amsterdam (MA, MPhil) and is a Solicitor of the Irish Courts. He is currently the Rapporteur for development of a new General Comment of the Human Rights Committee on the topic of Article 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Freedoms of Opinion and Expression). He is as an advisor to many international and regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and is a member of the editorial boards of the Human Rights Law Review, the Irish Yearbook of International Law, the International Journal of Human Rights, European Yearbook on Human Rights, and Revue Trimestrielle Des Droits de L’Homme. He sits on advisory committees of the European Roma Rights Centre, the Diplomacy Training Programme, the UN-UK Association, the World Organization Against Torture, the Hilde Back Education Fund and a number of other groups worldwide. Until December 2003, Michael O’Flaherty served in a number of senior positions with the United Nations. He established the UN human rights field missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1994) and Sierra Leone (1998) and subsequently guided UN headquarters support to its human rights programmes across the Asia-Pacific region. He has served as Secretary of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and UN human rights advisor for implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement. From 2000 to 2002 he chaired the UN reference group on human rights and humanitarian action.

Grainia Long has been Director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Northern Ireland since 2007. From 2005 – 2007 she was Director of Policy at the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland . Prior to that, she worked for Shelter Scotland as a Parliamentary and Policy officer. She is currently a member of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Planning Reform.

Christine Collins is the Director and Deputy Chair of the Huntington’s Disease Association of Northern Ireland . She also runs her own consulting company. Prior to this, she held a number of positions in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Northern Ireland Office.

John Corey was NIPSA General Secretary from 2003 – 2010. He has held a number of senior trade union positions within NIPSA over the last 30 years and has served as a board member of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Training and Employment Agency and the Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards. He is currently Chair of the trade unions campaign Coalition on Water Issues, member of the Board of Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland and represents trade unions on the Business and Industry Forum.

Milton Kerr is a former Chief Inspector of the PSNI (now retired). From 2003 – 2008 he was Head of Community Safety in ‘G’ District (Foyle, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane). He is currently a non-Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and an Equality Commissioner.

Alan McBride is currently the Belfast Co-ordinator of the WAVE Trauma Centre. Prior to this, he worked in the voluntary sector as a senior youth worker from 1999-2007 and from 1997-1999 he was a support worker on the Peace and Reconciliation programme. He was Co-ordinator of the Drugs Peer Education Programme from 1995-1997. Alan has also been involved in the Northern Ireland Children’s Enterprise as a facilitator on the ‘Living in a divided society’ programme delivered in schools throughout Belfast, TEARS (Victims Group) and worked for the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes. His is also involved in voluntary work with the One Small Step Campaign, Healing Through Remembering and is a member of the Human Rights Ad-hoc Consortium as well as being on the Advisory Group to the Police Ombudsman.

Marion Reynolds is a qualified social worker and spent 36 years working for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety rising to the position of Deputy Director Social Services. She is currently a member of the Exceptional Circumstances Body of the Department of Education, the Domestic Violence Interest Group at Queens University , the Northern Ireland Advisory Group of Homestart and sits on the National Review Panel which investigates the death of children in either state care or subject to child protection arrangements in the Republic of Ireland .

Paul Yam was born in Singapore and was educated in both Singapore and the UK . He was a self-employed advertising photographer for seven years and during this time he provided practical help and support for the Chinese community and did voluntary work as a leader of youth groups for the wider community. In 1998 Paul worked as a Community Development Worker for the Chinese Welfare Association. In 1999 he established The Wah Hep Chinese Community Association in Craigavon, and in 2000 he was formally appointed its director. He has helped Wah Hep to establish a number of facilities such as a youth group, an after school club, a Chinese school, an adult English programme, the Wah Hep information drop-in centre and a multi-agency interpreting service. He served as an Equality Commissioner from 2004-2009, was chair of Craigavon and Banbridge Community Forum from 2006-2009 and has been a member of the Racial Equality Panel. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to community relations work in Northern Ireland .

But will they be any more ‘successful’ than the last bunch?  [At building consensus? – Ed]  That would be a good place to start…

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