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Further privatisation of the State’s functions December 16, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Ethics, Human Rights, Ireland, Rights.
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The Irish Human Rights Commission has advertised for contract workers for its human rights education project. The two temporary contract posts are, the IHRC’s web-site informs us, funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.

As I flip between typing this post and the the IHRC’s site, I stare at the advert, to check, and check again I haven’t made a mistake. But it is true. A private body is now paying a statutory body to perform the function that statutory body was assigned under legislation. This isn’t a commercial activity, with the private sector buying a service from a statutory body. This is a private organisation taking over a key role of the State in funding its infrastructure for the protection of citizens (and, indeed, others).

What does it say of the independence of the Irish Human Rights Commission that it has accepted this funding? Maybe some businesses should set up a foundation to provide funds to the IHRC to do some work on how a “free market” helps the poor. Or will we next have the Shell-funded Garda Síochana and the IBM-funded High Court?

And, as I have (almost) commented over on Human Rights in Ireland, can we now expect the Department of Social and Family Affairs to now issue Gates Foundation Job Seekers Allowances instead of the dole?

Comments»

1. EWI - December 17, 2009

By the way, who knew that Sarah Carey did comedy? Part of her latest emission (this one’s on the semi-states):

Moore McDowell, who sports an actual beard though not an ideological one

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/1216/1224260759300.html

That’s funny, because I seem to remember a free-marketeer think-tank called the Open Republic Institute which was in existence not so long ago, comprising the same same Mr. McDowell, Constantin Gurdgiev and a chap called Paul McDonnell (iirc a lobbyist for the Irish Insurance Federation).

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Hugh Green - December 17, 2009

The Terry Eagleton quote about how ideology is like bad breath -only the other person has it- applies here. Them beardies are in thrall to ideology, but me and my bearded pal Moore McDowell are merely the corporeal form of an archimedean objectivity.

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2. Tim - December 17, 2009

Having read some of the rubbish this pointless agency has produced, why not just shut it down altogether and save some money? G-d knows we need it.

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Tim - December 17, 2009

If I can expand, the Atlantic Philanthropies may be a private organisation but it looks like the kind of do-gooding non-profit that someone who thinks the IHRC is a good thing would surely like.
The wording of your post suggests that you question the potential bias of a private funding group (and that’s a valid critique), but it could be argued that a state-controlled IHRC has potential for bias in any case. Do you trust the government? I don’t.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 17, 2009

There is a difficulty with the concept of philantrophy / charity which maybe lies behind this. There is an element of “crumbs from the table of the wealthy” about it, a largesse displayed by the wealthy towards causes which they deem worthy. I find this deeply discomforting, it flies in the face of egalitarianism, it is insulting at many levels.

I don’t deny that the end result of such philantrophy / charity can have material benefits to some in society who need it most, but that simply isn’t the point.

It is incumbent on the state apparatus to provide for the needs of the population, isn’t that what socialism is about, from each according to their work, to each according to their needs (or some such).

The state should be taxing the wealthy in a progressive manner, to fund these and similar services. Those services should be provided as a right, not as a favour of the wealthy. And the organisational ethos of the service provider should reflect the aims of the republic, not those of the vested interests of the private corporations providing some portion of the funds.

As for trusting the government, well no, but the government is not the state, the state is all of us and more, it is the ideal which we all own. Waxing a bit lyrical there I know, but you know what I mean.

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Tim - December 17, 2009

Yes, but I’m not sure the IHRC is either a function of the state OR a charitable concern, it is more like a second tier of law enforcement (read: thought police). We have police and courts -which as you say, there would be concern if private organisations were funding – and I would want to know why they are not enough. The potential for abuse by HRCs has come to light lately here in Canada, with many of their decisions having been thrown out of court with some strong words from judges ….

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Tomboktu - December 18, 2009

Tim: “The potential for abuse by HRCs has come to light lately here in Canada, with many of their decisions having been thrown out of court with some strong words from judges

A couple of points are worth noting on this. First, there is a potential for abuse by courts and judges too. (For example, for a long, long time segregation was upheld in the USA established in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson.)

Second, law is not the same thing as human rights, and judges are appointed to supreme courts, constitutional courts, or a Cour de Cassation or Conseil d’État because they are experts in law, and may not have any particular understanding of or expertise in human rights. Judges on these final tribunals may have been appointed on the basis of their expertise in commercial law, property law, administrative law, tax law, etc.

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3. Cl - December 17, 2009

Since Feeney made his money from duty free shops its only fitting that Atlantic Philanthropies now support activities that are usually financed from taxation.
This concept could be extended with those profiting from tax exemptions taking over functions that the government can no longer afford due to lack of revenue.

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4. Alastair - December 17, 2009

There wasn’t much of a fuss when they were funding the CPI. The NI HRC are also funded by Atlantic, as are a variety of laudable community NGO’s/quangos – Feeny is very much hands off – as good a place to get your funding from as any.

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Tomboktu - December 19, 2009

[Aside: What is/was CPI?]

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Alastair - December 19, 2009

The Centre for Public Inquiry. The director, Frank Connolly was accused by Michael McDowell of using a false passport to travel and help out the Colombia Three in, eh, Colombia. McDowell came across as an idiot with talk of threats to the state etc, but Connolly wouldn’t account for his wherabouts at the time. Feeney pulled the funding after a series of meetings and no joy out of Connolly. A pity, given the quality of work in the centre’s reports to that point.

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LeftAtTheCross - December 19, 2009

Yeah, first time I read that I thought CPI / Communist Party of Ireland, then nah that can’t be right 🙂

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Tomboktu - December 19, 2009

My “fuss” isn’t about who Atlantic funds, but that a statutory body is being funded by a private one. (And a comment on Human Rights In Ireland questions whether that is legal.)

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5. EWI - December 19, 2009

There wasn’t much of a fuss when they were funding the CPI.

Yes. Whatever happened to that?

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Alastair - December 19, 2009

The small matter of the bankaxed credibility of its director. Feeney responded in exactly the same manner as any other funder would have done in the circumstances.

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