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New Chief Commissioner for Human Rights visits Dungannon24 October 2011
Last Monday the local community were presented with a wonderful opportunity to meet with and discuss issues with the newly appointed Chief Commissioner for Human Rights in Northern Ireland, Professor Michael O’Flaherty. The visit was organised by STEP, the rights-based community development and training organisation based in Dungannon.
Prof.O’Flaherty’s first port of call, at 11.00 am was the new Community Support Centre in Coalisland which houses STEP partnership programmes: BELONG, An Tearmann and SureStart. Here he met with management & staff of the four organisations and discussed issues affecting local families in their daily lives. Roisin McBride, BELONG Administrator gave an informative tour of the building and the work undertaken in the building. The Chief Commissioner was particularly impressed by the children’s work on display, and was provided with copies of the children’s work on the Bill of Rights. He then visited a number of local venues, including the Glen and Station Yard sites with An Tearman community development worker Geraldine Donnelly.
The Chief Commissioner then travelled toWillowbank Community Recource Centre in Dungannon town where over thirty community representatives from organisations working within the community, including local councillors and council officials had accepted the invitation to a meet and greet lunch and bring him up to date on their widely ranging issues and expectations of the new commission.
Professor O’Flaherty said:
“The projects we have visited today are all about empowerment and that is at the heart of all good human rights work. People have shared their stories, their concerns and their good practice with us. They deserve every possible support.”
After an excellent lunch prepared by Willowbank staff, the day belonged to the community and service users of the organisations responding. After the guests had a whirlwind tour of the facilities and services on site, Willowbank chairperson Barbara Wilson, chaired an informal round table meeting where individuals were able to air and share their specific problems and get appropriate information and feedback from the Commission.
Bernadette McAliskey (STEP) summed up the mood of the day: ‘By 3.00 pm when the Chief Commissioner had to leave, everyone involved felt energised and renewed in their commitment to defend the rights of the most vulnerable and work to build a society where those rights are protected and respected and to develop the confidence and skills to do that work effectively.’
Ann McGlone added ‘STEP and Willowbank and their programmes were delighted to be able to present this opportunity to the local communmity and wish to express their thanks to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and their staff for allowing this event to take place and wish to convey thanks and every success to the Chief Commissioner on his new role.’
Pictured below: Chief Commissioner Professor O'Flaherty meets Bernadette McAliskey, Co-ordinator STEP with Ann McGlone and Barbara Wilson, Willowbank Community Resource Centre and Paul Yam Commissioner with NIHRC