Galway native Professor Michael O’Flaherty has been elected as the new Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe.
O’Flaherty who is from Salthill and lectures on human rights law at the University of Galway, was elected on Wednesday evening at the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly.
The Commissioner is an independent and impartial non-judicial institution established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to promote awareness of and respect for human rights across the Council’s 46 member states.
Speaking after the announcement of the vote, the Tánaiste Micheál Martin said, “I want to congratulate Michael O’Flaherty on his election as Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
“Professor O’Flaherty has served with great distinction in several high level positions in the field of human rights and his election as Commissioner is a mark of the high regard in which he is held.
“His extensive human rights expertise, strong record of leadership and demonstrated courage, integrity and resilience, are qualities that will benefit him as he takes up his new role.
“The office of Commissioner is central to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Never have these ideals and principles been more important.”
O’Flaherty (64) has a strong background in human rights, which he took up in the 1990s after leaving the Catholic Priesthood.
He was chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission from 2011 to 2013, and was made an Established Professor of Human Rights Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the University of Galway in 2013.
O’Flaherty is the outgoing Director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency and also has extensive experience working on human rights issues with the UN over the past 18 years.
There he worked on setting up human rights field operations in conflict-affected conflicts such as Sierra Leone and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as serving as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.
His election to Human Rights Commissioner is the highest non-judicial post held by an Irish person at the Council of Europe.
Professor O’Flaherty will take up the position of Commissioner on April 1, 2024.