Charter debate: Alliance submission

The Alliance Party was one of the three parties that responded to the Joint Committee. We’ve included some of the highlights here. Please note the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 passed into law in the Republic earlier this year. It has a particularly interesting tack on the issue of sovereignty.Submission from Dr Stephen Farry, Justice Spokesman, to the Joint Committee – August 2003

Alliance warmly endorses the concept of a Charter of Rights for the island of Ireland as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

Alliance also accepts that the language of the Agreement would be consistent with the Joint Committee producing a draft of such a Charter.

Alliance is very disappointed that the Republic of Ireland is still in the process of incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into its domestic law, despite commitments made in the Agreement. We are also keen to see more rapid progress in the development of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

Alliance does not see the Charter as being as either to create a legally binding document applicable on an all-island basis in violation of agreed understandings of sovereignty in the Agreement. But neither should the document be merely a loose set of aspirational principles that has limited effect. Rather Alliance sees it as a means for standardising the protection of rights on both sides of the border. We have some empathy with the claim that it should be ‘a common foundation of fundamental rights for both political entities in Ireland or, more precisely, for people living in them.

The Charter should be open to signature by any organisation (including political parties), and any individual.

Of the three model approaches suggested, Alliance would favour Option B. However, we have no objection to any broader consultation, encompassing all three approaches.

Model B seems to the one most consistent with our perspective on this Charter, as outlined above.

Model A would have little more than symbolic effect. By contrast, Model C could create a formal all-Ireland single rights regime that would not be consistent with the broader accommodation of the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the Principle of Consent.

Alliance is generally happy with the proposed content of the Charter. However, we would make the following points.

First, in relation to the rights to identity and of communities, it should be made clear that people have the right not to be treated as part of such communities, and to have complete and free self-determination.

Second, in relation to violence, there should be a clear rejection of all forms of paramilitarism.