Belfast Telegraph

Interim commissioner appointed

A former trade union leader has been appointed interim chief commissioner of Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission.

John Corey took over the caretaker role today following the departure of Professor Michael O'Flaherty as head of the organisation. Advertising for the permanent position is expected to begin soon.

The outgoing head stepped aside from his £80,000 a year post for personal reasons and served around two years.

He is a former member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee and an expert on freedom of expression and the prevention of torture. The academic has spearheaded human rights missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sierra Leone.

Since September 2011 he has been an outspoken advocate of a bill of rights. Under his watch the Commission said lack of progress on creating legislation was a matter of regret and called on the Government to act.

The influential organisation also investigated alleged abuses in nursing homes, including elderly residents being admitted to hospital for dehydration because a home failed to provide enough for them to drink.

Professor O'Flaherty said: "The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is a remarkable institution that champions the human rights of everyone in society, but especially of the most vulnerable and marginalised. The Commission is implementing a clear plan of action that is based on the human rights commitments freely entered into by the UK."

He said it has been an honour and pleasure to serve the Commission.

"I have every confidence in the continued effectiveness of the Commission under the interim leadership of John Corey and with the appointment of a new chief commissioner."

Mr Corey was general secretary of public service trade union Nipsa from 2003 - 2010 and previously held other positions with the organisation. He was a member of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) executive council and from 2008-2010 chaired the ICTU Northern Ireland Committee.

He works on arbitration for the Labour Relations Agency and represents trade unions on the Northern Ireland Business and Industry Forum.

Mr Corey said: "Over the last two years Michael O'Flaherty has made a very major contribution to the work of the Human Rights Commission. His unique experience and expertise in human rights have enabled the Commission to develop a clear vision and programme of work to advance human rights for every person in Northern Ireland.

"Commissioners and staff will continue to fulfil this programme of work while liaising with the Secretary of State to appoint a new Chief Commissioner."

The position of chief commissioner will be advertised shortly.

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