Charter debate: what rights?

Colin Harvey with the third of his pieces, asks the question what rights might a future charter contain. We’ve already had the suggestion from reader Alan that those of children and the disabled might be useful additions. Donaloc has anticipated the issue by pasting Sinn Fein’s extensive list of rights suggested in its discussion document.Ø Which rights should it contain?

Before deciding on which rights it should contain there must be a clear idea of the context and what the Agreement prescribes. What then should be in the Charter of Rights? Should it simply affirm the key human rights principles already in existence or should it include more extensive provisions?

Here there is a sound argument that the Charter might build on the existing language of the Agreement. For example, by reaffirming the concept of equivalence and the commitment to recognition of the identity and ethos of national communities. The Charter could offer further assurance that no community will suffer from a change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. This would be in line with the spirit of the Belfast Agreement.

But the Charter could go beyond this. The reference in the Agreement to ‘everyone’ may not be accidental. The Charter could also, for example, address racism and the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. There is no necessary conflict between recognising the origins of the Charter in the Agreement and building for a shared future in the island of Ireland. However, the spirit of the Agreement must inform the Charter process.