Charter debate: lessons from Northern Ireland

Brice Dickson was a key speaker at the Seminar in Cork on Saturday. His presentation looked at three things: lessons to be learned from the Bill of Rights debate in Northern Ireland; what quality of relationship might exist between a future charter and a future Bill of Rights; and some concluding thoughts on the challenges it might throw up. He was speaking in a purely personal capacity, and no way reflects the official thinking of the Human Rights Commission.

Note: A summary of day will follow.

By Brice Dickson

Saturday was a good day to hold such an event on the Charter, it being the fourth anniversary of the commencement of the Human Rights Act in the UK.

I want to focus on two things: (a) the lessons that could be learned for the Charter of Rights process from the Bill of Rights project in Northern Ireland and (b) the potential relationship between the Charter of Rights and the Bill of Rights.

Lessons that could be learned

Do not underestimate the range of interested organisations and individuals who will have views on what should be contained in the Charter of Rights; handling such vies will be a big logistical task;

When the consultation gets going in earnest there will be orchestrated campaigns by particular factions, e.g. on the right to life (the anti-abortion lobby), the right to citizenship, the rights of children, etc.

The politicians and the two governments will be political about the Charter: they will do and say what is politically expedient rather than what is right from a “rights” point of view.

Consider recent events

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