The submission by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to the consultation on a national action plan on business and human rights is now publicly available. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has published all of the submissions it has received as part of this consultation. The Commission’s submission is an important document, both for the substance of its recommendations and in view of the unique position which such bodies have both nationally and internationally. The Executive Summary gives a flavour of what the submission contains:
With regard to the State duty to protect, the submission addresses core human rights obligations, including equality and non-discrimination, the enhanced requirements where a State-business nexus exists, and the role of due diligence, public procurement and reporting in this context. The Commission recommends the establishment of a National Committee on Business and Human Rights, comprising representatives from across relevant Government Departments, statutory bodies, civil society and business, with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the National Action Plan, for monitoring and evaluating progress and for ensuring policy coherence. Ratification by Ireland of a number of key international instruments of relevance in the context of business and human rights is also recommended. The Commission considers that the National Action Plan must include a strong emphasis on equality and non-discrimination, in particular gender equality and the rights of women workers.
The Commission also pays particular attention to the third pillar of the UN Guiding Principles on access to remedy:
The Commission recommends that the National Action Plan provides clarification as to how Ireland guarantees an effective remedy for human rights harms involving Irish businesses, whether occurring in Ireland or overseas. The Commission also recommends that the Irish Government undertakes a thorough review of existing legislation and the operation of State judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to ensure access to an effective remedy and to identify and address any legal, procedural or practical barriers which may exist.
The recommendations of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, if followed, could go some way towards advancing the business and human rights agenda in Ireland.
The Commission has also tackled the issue of corporate tax avoidance, recommending that the Irish national action plan should “acknowledge the negative human rights impact of tax avoidance both nationally and globally, and include a commitment by the Irish Government to adopt a human rights based approach to addressing tax avoidance”. Similar suggestions have been made by Irish politicians in recent weeks. Time will tell if the Irish government heeds these calls.