A Human Rights Forum is to be estalished to take forward the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The debate around this Bill involves very important questions. How far beyond the European Convention does the Bill need to go? Should the emphasis be upon negative or positive rights? Are civil and political protections sufficient? What about cultural rights? How far should it venture into social and economic rights if at all? All of these will have significant consequences for local democracy and potentially the public purse.
To complement this process, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland has a funding programme. This support could ensure a full and fair debate on all these fundamental questions. Unfortunately, CFNI specifically bars critics from such support, it excludes what it deems “initiatives that are anti-Bill of Rights position”. How does the NIHRC and human rights groups feel about this impairment of a full and free debate? Is supporting one side of the debate not a indirect assault on freedom of speech? Why this fear of criticism?