A charter of rights for the island?

Next Tuesday we begin a two week online debate designed to explore the possibility of establishing an island-wide Charter of Rights, as suggested in the Belfast Agreement. And you don’t have to be coralled on the inside of an English castle to take part!

It’s jointly sponsored by University College Cork, University of Leeds and the British Council in Dublin. It straddles a real time seminar in Cork on Saturday 2nd October.

In the meantime, I’m in Dublin tomorrow, so blogging will be slow to moderate. On Monday we should have a short report on tomorrow night’s contest between Eammon McCann, Steven King and the Dublin audience!

  • Davros

    Do we really need this ?

    Surely as the UK and ROI are members of the EU the European Convention On Human Rights ALREADY applies to all of geographical Ireland ?

  • willowfield

    It does (and it’s in NI’s domestic law). The suggestion is for rights additional to those in the Convention.

    Unnecessary in my view, too.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dav and Willow,

    The intention is to explore these very issues, without presupposing the answers.

    The fact is that it’s mentioned in the Belfast Agreement. The debate is intended to unpack what the possiblities.

    It will be a very short debate if the answers to all the questions it raises can only be answered with a curt yes or no.

  • Davros

    Mick, I was wondering why a seperate Charter of Rights was necessary ? Is there anything missing from The European bill ? if so the answer is to get our MEPs to earn their keep 🙂 As a supporter of Europe it may be paranoia, but 3 of the 4 main parties here are anti-Europe .

  • Anonymous

    Davros

    The NIHRC has already been working on this and has come up with a raft of additional rights!

    Check it out.

  • peteb

    As I understand it, Davris, it’s a European Convention, agreed between the EU states. How individual states then enact the standard set, into their own legal systems, is up to them – and open to challenge against the original standard.

    The Convention itself sets a minimum standard, but the indivdual states are free to go beyond that if they wish.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, Thanks Guys 🙂

  • dave

    “establishing an island-wide Charter of Rights.”

    Why Island wide? after all there are TWO different Countries on this island, one of the Countries has a Written constitution, the other does not. Any such charter of rights would need to be agreed by a referendum to be added to the written constitution, since when has Northern Ireland had a say in the constitution of the ROI?.

    maybe the above should read charter of rights for a united Ireland, which we all know is not going to happen, ever, so what is the point of such a charter in the first place.

    The EU charter of rights will suffice for the time being untilit is superceded by the charter of rights when an Independent Northern Ireland is established.

  • Fraggle

    dave, I for one don’t know that a united ireland is not going to happen, ever.

  • Fraggle

    I might say ‘we all know that an independant northern ireland is not going to ahppen, ever’ but such a statement is stupid since i don’t know what will or won’t happen, I can only assess the liklihood.

  • Davros

    Dag-nabit! I was “Willowfielded” again … the
    “Thanks Guys” was me to Pete and anonymous who gave the link to the whopping great pdf file 🙂

  • peteb

    It’s not that big a file, Davros, only 820 Kb :o)

  • willowfield

    Peteb

    As I understand it, Davris, it’s a European Convention, agreed between the EU states. How individual states then enact the standard set, into their own legal systems, is up to them – and open to challenge against the original standard. The Convention itself sets a minimum standard, but the indivdual states are free to go beyond that if they wish.

    It’s not agreed between EU states. It was agreed between members of the Council of Europe and any subsequent signatories.

    Signatories don’t have to include the Convention in their own legal systems as individuals can take states directly to the European Court of Human Rights. Transposing the Convention into domestic law, however, as the UK has done, makes it easier for citizens as it is easier and quicker to bring a case in a domestic court than in the European Court.

    As for “minimum standards”, this implies that there is an expectation that states add to the European Convention. This is not so. Although there is, of course, nothing to stop individual states enshrining as many additional rights into their own law as they want (or – in NI’s case – as the NIHRC wants).

  • willowfield

    Davros

    Dag-nabit! I was “Willowfielded” again … the
    “Thanks Guys” was me to Pete and anonymous who gave the link to the whopping great pdf file 🙂

    The anonymous poster who gave the link was me!

  • peteb

    OK, Willow, technically it was the Council of Europe when the European Convention on Human Rights was created in 1950.

    As of 2003, only 2 individual states had not incorporated the Convention into their own law – Norway and Ireland.

    The “minimum standard” was simply meant to imply that there was a negotiation involved where some states wanted more rights and some wanted less.. and as you have pointed out, there is nothing to stop individual states incorporating more comprehensive rights into their own law.

  • willowfield

    Technically?

  • peteb

    Sorry Willow..

    Yes, the Convention was agreed by the member states of the Council of Europe and not, specifically, the member states of the European Union.

    Sheesh it’s too early in the morning for this.

  • dave

    I might say ‘we all know that an independant northern ireland is not going to ahppen, ever’ but such a statement is stupid since i don’t know what will or won’t happen, I can only assess the liklihood.

    Posted by: Fraggle at September 23, 2004 10:16 PM

    This is the difference between us, I know I united Ireland will never be a reality as I believe that an Independent Northern Ireland will be granted by the Governemnt or declared by the people.

    A united Ireland can only be “obtained” through the political process and not by force of arms, whereas an Independent Northern Ireland can be declared by the people, guess what? the rest of the United Kingdom would not say no, besides we don’t need permission from ANY COUNTRY if we decides to declare and fight for Independence.

  • Fraggle

    Dave, I was trying to politely point out your error without calling you stupid. Sadly, it seems that it may become necessary at some point.

    I personally believe that neither a united ireland nor an independent northern ireland are likely in the near future. However, both have at least some degree of liklihood which makes statements such as yours foolish, if not stupid.

  • dave

    fraggle.

    When the republican terrorist Organisation SF/IRA State via Gerry and Martin that a united Ireland is (inevitable) what does that mean?

    They have made an assessment of the situation and have concluded that a United Ireland will happen, other who are not terrorists say a United Ireland will never happen.

    I say Independence for Northern Ireland will happen, this is my stupid opinion, which is no more stupid than that made by Gerry and Martin (known terrorists).

    Do you really think the people of Northern Ireland will not declare Independence?

  • shaypaul

    Just wondering if anyone will get round to discussing the thread ?

  • Anonymous

    Is anyone up to date on SF’s Rights for All process which seems directly relevent to this?

    Rather than refering to other conventions all the time, it would be valuable to have our own Bill of Rights tied into a All Ireland package. We need a bill that is simple to understand and can be owned by all sides of the community – that would be a boon.

    The complexity of current HR provisions – including whether this protocol or that convention has been adopted or not makes HR a confusing mess for most of us. Let’s have a document that the person in the street can understand – as one contributor to a recent conference rightly said *Give it to the poets, not to the lawyers*. He also suggested Heaney as someone who could do the job.

    To do that, we need to make the document mean something to real people, so we need to include rights to housing, health care, and rights at work.

    We also need to look beyond the European convention, because it is aging and there are better examples out there. We need to look seriously at children’s rights and recognise that people with disabilities require very specific protections. On a tendentious note, we need to ensure that there is no mention of *two communities* in what should be a universalist document.

    And that’s only to start off with.

  • Alan

    That anonymous was *Alan*.

    Does the comment system time out after a while Mick?

  • Anonymous

    I read the consultation document a while back. It has possibilities and several areas of concern.
    It’s also rather ambiguous here

    “4. Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right:-
    a) To make decisions concerning reproduction;
    b) To security in and control over their body; “

    do a) and b) include birth control and abortion ?

  • Anonymous

    30 seconds after signing in , I became anonymous in
    the “do a) and b) include birth control and abortion ?” post – Davros

  • Anonymous

    Posted by: Anonymous at September 25, 2004 09:15 AM

    “We also need to look beyond the European convention, because it is aging and there are better examples out there. We need to look seriously at children’s rights and recognise that people with disabilities require very specific protections. On a tendentious note, we need to ensure that there is no mention of *two communities* in what should be a universalist document.

    And that’s only to start off with.”

    There must be no mention of two communities/ even though there are TWO COMMUNITIES?

    How does that work?

  • Mick

    The problem with the annonymous postings is because I’ve liberalised the comment facility, so that people can post without typeey.

    In moving the site to the new server we seem to have (temporarily) evaded the comment spammers. Given the possiblity of new readers coming in for the e-debate on A Charter of Rights, I thought it might make it easier.

    I’ll tighten up the settings so that if you post after Typekey has timed out, it will ask for details in the way it always did before.

  • Anonymous

    Apologies for butting in but…

    It’s been reported on Aljazeera that their website has been inundated with emails from Ireland calling for Kenneth Bigley’s release.

    The email address is editor@aljazeera.com.

    Every angle should be explored (exploited?).

  • smcgiff

    I was the above thread hijacker (smcgiff).

    Normal coverage will now resume…

  • Davros

    “There must be no mention of two communities/ even though there are TWO COMMUNITIES? How does that work? ”

    That’s too simplistic a way of looking at NI.

  • Anonymous

    There must be no mention of two communities/ even though there are TWO COMMUNITIES? How does that work? ”

    That’s too simplistic a way of looking at NI.

    Posted by: Davros at September 25, 2004 05:52 PM

    Too simplistic a way of looking at NI, how come?

    One community is supporting their right to be Irish the other is supporting their right to be British. I’m sure that you are familiar the saying (BRITS OUT), which incidentally includes me and my family.

    Too simplistic! more a case of a very honest way to look at Northern Ireland.

    If I were seeking simplicity I would have stated that the only charter we need is one of NO TERRORISTS IN GOVERNMENT if this idea were to be adopted by the BRITISH Government where would SF/IRA be today?

    What is the point of an Island Charter, when we have International terrorists in Government?

  • Anonymous

    The problem of including a cleaving clause like that of the two communities into any bill is that the division becomes universalised across all fields of action. There is an immediate division imposed across society. You become a nationalist child or a unionist child, services provided for children must be monitored for their impact across that cleavage. You become a nationalist or a unionist person with disability and all services for people with disability must be similarly monitored.

    While divisions such as disability, gender, sexuality and age can easily be defined, how do you define nationalist or unionist? Also is there any possibility of changing your definition? Can a unionist become a nationalist, for instance? Can a nationalist who was once a unionist use HR legislation to protect their interests?

    The protection afforded to nationalist or unionist also ignores the position of people who are neither.

    The human rights of the two communities are best protected by using universal rights, rather than dividing people into unfulfilling tribal ciphers.

  • Alan

    The above was posted by *Alan*.

  • Davros

    “Posted by: Davros at September 25, 2004 05:52 PM

    Too simplistic a way of looking at NI, how come?

    One community is supporting their right to be Irish the other is supporting their right to be British. I’m sure that you are familiar the saying (BRITS OUT), which incidentally includes me and my family.

    Too simplistic! more a case of a very honest way to look at Northern Ireland.”

    Well- we can split the pie in many ways :

    Unionist
    Loyalist
    Constitutional Nationalist
    Republican

    There are 4 communities.

    Pro and anti GFA: there are 2 communities

    Have and Have-nots : there are 2 communities

    Protestant, Catholic , Non-Christian – a number of communities .

    It’s farcical to pretend that a Catholic Businessman with a home in France, who lives on the Malone road and is doing very nicely should be lumped in with a Catholic on the dole in an area of deprivation, just as it’s farcical to pretend his wealthy Protestant neighbour should be lumped in with a protestant on the dole in an area of deprivation.

  • ShayPaul

    Davros

    Rights don’t need sectarian tags – quite the contrary.

    They are value based.

    They should enshrine the immovable principles.

    They should not be concerned with “slices of pie”.

    Better that they concentrate on the quality of the pastry.

    Nice weekend, must fly.

  • Anonymous

    Shay I don’t follow your point- could you please explain when you come back ?

  • Davros

    That was Davros, in case you were wondering!

  • Butterknife

    I agree with the above, by passing The Human Rights Act 1998 Parliament makes all public bodies subject to the European Convention of Human Rights.

    As all EC Laws observe the ECHR then indirectly we obey these human rights.