“The Forum is due to report in March 2008 and provide agreed recommendations..”

There has been a number of reactions to the announcement that the NIO [or “government” as this report puts it – Ed] has provided an extra £100,000 to fund 2 new outreach workers for the Bill of Rights Forum as it prepares a report for the NI Human Rights Commission, due next March. Update From the BBC’s Mark Devenport

Some of the recent debates over human rights here have been inexp[l]icable to anyone outside a small clique of experts. Let’s hope that the Forum follows the example of the American founding fathers and Eleanor Roosevelt who managed to produce declarations written in clear and elegant prose.

Those reactions include Sinn Féin’s Martina AndersonAdds A recent post on human rights and due process.

“We can set new standards in defining people’s rights – not just in terms of fundamental human rights but also for specific groups and on socio-economic issues like the right to housing.

Whose comments may be what the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson had in mind

“I think to a certain extent the whole human rights fraternity has largely ignored the concerns of unionists about the direction in which this whole human rights debate was moving,” he said.

“I think many unionists are nervous about the whole concept that we move away from a bill of rights which is about basic human rights to something that is very prescriptive.”

[Not just unionists, Jeffrey – Ed]

Not that the Bill Of Rights Forum itself is any clearer yet

What is a Bill of Rights?

A Bill of Rights is a law protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms to which each person is entitled. Those rights might include the right to life, the right to freedom of religion, the right to freedom of expression, the right to education or the right to good health care. Each country’s Bill of Rights should reflect the particular needs and circumstances of its people.

If it was just about “fundamental rights and freedoms” they’d have a much better chance of reaching consensus. But, of course, taking account of our “particular circumstances” is part of their remit..

“To produce agreed recommendations to inform the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s advice to Government on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience.”

And from the NIO statement notes

Notes to Editors

The 28 members of the independent Bill of Rights Forum for Northern Ireland will meet for the sixth time on Friday, September 7.

The DUP, Sinn Fein, UUP and SDLP each have three seats on the Forum and the Alliance Party has 2 seats.

Civic Society is represented by Employers, Trade Unions, and Churches which each have two seats, as well as one representative from each of the following sectors: human rights NGOs; children and young people; people with disabilities; ethnic minorities; older people; people of different sexual orientations; women; and the community / voluntary sector as a whole.

The forum is chaired by Chris Sidoti, a human rights lawyer, activist and teacher, who served as Australian Human Rights Commissioner (1995-2000).

notes that are worth considering when reading the comments from the chair of the Bill of Rights Forum reported here

Chris Sidoti, the Australian chairman of the Bill of Rights Forum, said the NIO money would also allow him to consult with children, migrants and the gay and lesbian community.

He is appointing two outreach workers as he considers his guidance to the Human Rights Commission, due next March.

“There has been concern expressed regularly that the unionist community has not been involved as much as it would have liked,” he said.

“People with minority sexual orientation have only become organised and active in recent years and there are opportunities to consult with them which were not previously available.”