The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is poised to welcome four new commissioners, each bringing their expertise and commitment to advancing human rights in the region. Helen Henderson, Jonathan Kearney, David Lavery, and Stephen White are set to commence their appointments on September 1, 2023, for a term of three years. These appointments underscore the NIHRC’s dedication to promoting human rights awareness and safeguarding the principles of justice and equality.
The NIHRC, established in 1999 as an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office, operates with a focus on upholding human rights in compliance with the UN General Assembly resolution 48/134, also known as the ‘Paris Principles.’ The Commission’s responsibilities encompass reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of human rights protection in Northern Ireland, as well as fostering understanding and awareness of human rights significance in the region.
Helen Henderson’s background in global education, community development, and peacebuilding positions her as a valuable addition to the Commission. As the Managing Director of St Columb’s Park House, a center for peace and reconciliation, Henderson’s experience aligns with the NIHRC’s mission.
Jonathan Kearney, an independent consultant with expertise in policing and human rights, brings valuable insights to the table. His research into international policing and his work as a sessional academic contribute to his role as a commissioner.
David Lavery, currently serving as Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, possesses a wealth of experience in the legal sector. His prior role as Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service further enhances his capacity to contribute effectively to the NIHRC.
Stephen White’s background as a self-employed freelance Security Sector Reform Specialist enriches the Commission’s knowledge base. His expertise in security sector reform aligns with the Commission’s broader human rights advocacy goals.
The appointments are part-time, spanning three years until August 31, 2026. Notably, political activity has played no part in the selection process, reflecting the NIHRC’s commitment to unbiased appointments based on merit and statutory requirements. The new commissioners have collectively affirmed that they have not been politically active in the past five years.
The NIHR’s regulatory processes adhere to the guidelines set forth by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA), ensuring transparency and accountability. As these commissioners assume their roles, they contribute to the ongoing endeavor to uphold human rights principles, promote equality, and foster a society rooted in justice and fairness. Their dedication serves as a testament to the enduring commitment to human rights advocacy in Northern Ireland.