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Secretary of State announces reappointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Chris Heaton-Harris MP, has announced the appointment of four Commissioners to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Helen Henderson, Jonathan Kearney, David Lavery and Stephen White will take up their appointments with effect from 1 September 2023 for a term of three years.

A competition will be held shortly for one further Commissioner vacancy details of which will be advertised on the Public Appointments website.


The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (the ‘NIHRC’) was created by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, as part of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
The NIHRC was established in 1999 and operates as an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office.
Its powers and duties are set out in legislation, and it operates in compliance with UN General Assembly resolution 48/134 (the ‘Paris Principles’) on National Human Rights Institutions. The NIHRC’s functions include keeping under review the adequacy and effectiveness in Northern Ireland of law and practice relating to the protection of human rights and promoting understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights in Northern Ireland.

Further information about the work of the Commission can be found at:

Terms of appointment

  • These positions are part-time for a period of three years ending on 31 August 2026.
  • The positions receive a fixed annual remuneration of £7,500.
  • The positions are not pensionable.

Biography of Appointees

Helen Henderson has a background in global education, community development and peace building within the third sector. She is managing Director of St Columb’s Park House, a peace and reconciliation centre and is a former board member with the Northern Ireland Fisheries and Harbours Authority

Jonathan Kearney is an independent consultant with a focus on policing and human rights. He has undertaken research into international policing and worked as a sessional academic.

David Lavery is currently Chief Executive of the Law Society of Northern Ireland and former Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service.

Stephen White is currently a self-employed freelance Security Sector Reform Specialist.

Political Activity

All appointments are made on merit and with regards to the statutory requirements. Political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity in defined categories to be made public. All of the appointees have declared that they have not been politically active in the last five years.


The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointment (OCPA) regulates appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Statutory Requirements

The Secretary of State makes appointments to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in accordance with the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

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