A left-wing wish-list! Again?

Newton Emerson is not impressed by the work of the Bill of Rights Forum. He believes that the working group reports show it will be a left wing wish list. One core problem in his criticism, the reports that have him working up a sweat are the old reports of the NIHRC process. The new working groups are not bound by their work in any way. A key reason there is another attempt is that the necessary political support couldn’t be garnered for the ‘left-wing wish list’ of the last process and any repetition will most likely deliver the same result, failure.

  • Nevin
  • Shore Road Resident

    You’ve got confused between the working group blueprints and the working group reports, Fair Deal. The blueprints are from the old process, but the reports are current.

  • fair_deal


    “You’ve got confused between the working group blueprints and the working group reports, Fair Deal. The blueprints are from the old process, but the reports are current.”


    The blueprints are the new process. The reports are the old process.

    For example if you look at the NIHRC working group report it is dated January 2001 and has two names on it but the second person named as drafting the document isn’t on the new panel. While the blueprint refers to events in 2007.

  • fair_deal


    That is the Language working group report

  • Chris

    A couple of clarifications…

    The Bill of Rights forum is writing a bill of rights for one reason and one reason only, to inform the NIHRC what it should look like from the views of Joe Public.

    The forum is in place to offer its views of what a BOR should look like to inform the NIHRC and that is its sole remit. Now, the 2001 NIHRC paper which is discussed here was written after broad consultation and many submissions by numerous organisations and individuals in NI, what happened then was that the NIHRC then took all of those submissions and totally ignored them, it wrote its own bill and the current situation is a result of the people of NI asking what happened to all of the submissions, they didn’t get an answer.

    The BOR forum as it is now, is a result of discussions from the St Andrews agreement and is essentially a different, all new and inclusive process to finalise a BOR for NI.

    The BOR forum is a public forum which has been set up to examine and promote the views of stakeholders to the NIHRC in order that it can then draw up the bill, it (the BOR forum) is doing this by way of writing the bill in full in order that there can be no confusion around who submitted what and what they wanted it to say.

    The idea being that if there is a bill handed to the NIHRC agreed by all and in its full form from the BOR forum it would take some set to then rewrite it in any major way, hence ignoring the stakeholders views, all that money down the tube and all that cross party agreement etc etc…

    The Bill will not leave the Chairs hands until there is full agreement on its content.

    While it may look to be airy and fairy now it will be paired right down to what is achievable in the real world and what should achievable and reasonable, and right, in the future.

    There is really no need to shoot it in the foot before it starts to run.

    As for Mr Sidoti the Chair, I commend him for taking it on, he has made it an incredibly workable and open process and he will continue to roll it out across the communnity.

    He’s braver than I am.

    I wonder does he read Slugger?

  • Quaysider

    The NIHRC stuff forms the “base” reports for the new consultation and I haven’t a doubt that most of the final report will be based on it. Fun stuff in the assembly on this today BTW.

  • MacAedha

    The various working groups have concluded that everyone in Northern Ireland has the right to a home, a job and “an adequate standard of living”. Not a right to pursue these things, mark you – but simply a right to them, period, “irrespective of the availability of a country’s resources”.

    Ironically just what my dissertation in 2001 concluded, it took me c. 90 day’s to complete, I wonder why they pay others to take seven years to reach the same conclusion?

  • Aquifer

    Vintage Emerson. I have filed his piece under reason. A NI bill of individual rights can be a very subversive document, as we badly need protection from those who would insist on us having rights on the basis of our division into groups, whether sectarian or disadvantaged. Useful rights give us the opportunity to become something other than what we are, which challenges most of the institutional vested interests crowded into this small NI space.

    State nannydom is a major player here, having taken over the role of the ‘big house’ and religion in estranging the poor from the means of production. State employment and sponsorship has freed entire classes of donors and dependents from the multiplication and division of self-generated wealth. Envy and discontent has displaced ambition and debate.

    Our best hope has to be that provided that basic participation in society is assured, that an educated electorate and democracy may deliver social progress.

    That suggests shelter, subsistence, education and civic confidence for children and adolescents in particular.

    If we are serious about managing basic rights, how would we measure their absence? Children without warm housing and food? adolescents without qualifications, young people without skills? Voters unregistered, the average age of political representatives, their sex?

    If we can’t measure rights, it is hard to know if we have got them or not.

    Believing we have rights is critical in Ireland, where states have acted as agents for one side only. Belief in our rights is a healthy expectation of opportunity, protection, and redress.

    That leads to simplicity, for who can remember a list that is too long?

    And remind us of one person one vote, the right of anyone to stand for election. Violent and self-important old men should hate those ones, as they give the right to life back to the living.

  • patrique

    Newton as usual is talking human excrement. He works for a right wing Green Tory publication, which is probably suitable, as he appears to be a ring wing green tory.

    This is the man who states that people off work with breast cancer, heart attacks, and maternity leave, are malingerers. How can anyone take someone like that seriously?

  • A ”left-wing” wish-list, containing principles recognized throughout virtually the rest of the first-world (I realise the syntax is awkward).

  • Animus

    The right to housing doesn’t mean an automatic right without qualification. The right to an adequate income may only mean as far as our current benefit system covers. There is a reasonableness test and social and economic rights have been well-tested in other jurisdictions; they have not led to the bankruptcy of Canada.

    How can one enjoy the right to vote (a political right) if they have little access to education (arguably a social right or a political right, depending on whom you’re speaking to)

    Many of those who are on the Forum are doing so on a voluntary basis, no pay involved. Human rights have the ability to unite, rather than divide. It’s rather sad that there are so many people afraid to share power. I think everyone on the Forum knows that everything that is asked for on any side is not going to be achieved; it’s a negotiation and will reflect the best everyone can live with, not a wish list. I used think Newton was entertaining, but now I find that he is ill-informed and very egocentric. I would love to see him thrash out a bill of rights – cowardice isn’t a good enough reason to pick on others who hope to create change and make an attempt to move forward in Northern Ireland.

  • Quaysider


    Nothing more to add, really – and certainly not seven years of dicking around to try squeezing everyone into sectarian categories.

    Aquifer is right, this is about individual rights versus “group rights” and there’s no sign that our local heroes have got their heads around that even yet.

  • The Dubliner

    “[Northern Ireland’s bill of rights] is certain to be so excessive, so undeliverable and so outrageously agenda-laden in its demands and ambitions that it will sink the political project behind it once and for all.” – Newton Emerson

    I don’t see any reason why Northern Ireland’s citizens need any legislation beyond the HRA 1998 which gives effect to the ECHR. The reason proffered on the Bill of Rights Forum website is less than convincing, wherein it confuses its function with that of a Truth Commission:

    “Why does Northern Ireland need a Bill of Rights? Because of the ‘particular circumstances’ of Northern Ireland’s past, people here have seen a need for a new law to protect our rights and freedoms as a basic building block of a fresh start for everyone. In this, the people of Northern Ireland are like other peoples who have emerged from periods of intense violence and conflict. A Bill of Rights can help ensure that the injustices of the past are never repeated and that the future provides equality and freedom for all.”

    Of course, since it is not a Truth Commission, it cannot learn the lessons of the past and, ergo, cannot apply them to the purpose of ensuring that they are not repeated, making a nonsense of its stated purpose.

    I think Newton Emerson is correct to suspect that this process will produce a ghastly monstrosity of a document that will serve as frightening reminder to the public that their politicians are overwhemingly 9th rate. A society that confuses a bill of rights with a political manifesto that makes socialism mandatory is a society that is doomed to live as a parasite on the prosperity of those who sudsidise it, i.e. the overburdened Brits. Equality means equal opportunity, not an equal amount, i.e. everybody has equal opportunity, but you only get what you earn in the free market.

    If this is the direction this is going, oh boy…

  • IJP


    To be fair, most of the people on the Forum have no elected mandate.

  • The Dubliner

    IJP, of the 28 members of the Bill of Rights, 14 are members of the four main political parties, with 9 of that 14 being elected MLAs. So, whatever this council comes up with is likely to have the endorsement of the main political parties. If they bin the socialist crap, I’ll be very suprised, since PSF’s Martina Anderson is spouting much of it.

  • Animus

    It’s actually five political parties. And half the people do have an elected mandate. Most of the civil society reps have a mandate through their membership (obviously there are exceptions). So it’s not as if people are just swanning in to make bold claims and then running off again. One could argue that politicians with little knowledge of human rights are hardly best-placed to argue effectively, but hey, that’s democracy.

  • The Dubliner

    There are only four political parties on the members list (the DUP aren’t members). Further, union delegates are elected by their members to private office, not public office, so they don’t count as having a democratic mandate from the public. Excluding the Chairman, Chris Sidoti, none of the members are leading authorities on human rights, but are chosen as token representation of Joe Public. Whatever they devise, if endorsed by the politicians and passed into law, then becomes a creation of Northern Ireland’s politicians, because, hey, that’s democracy.

    Since the Bill of Rights is a check on the actions of ‘government’ in Northern Ireland in much the same manner that a constitution is in a republic, my guess is that the DUP will endorse a document with elements in it that de facto mandate a socialist state as a trade-off for reform of the in the system of ‘government’ in Northern Ireland, i.e. they will say it is a safeguard which means it is safe to abandon the all-party system and return to majority rule. PSF, having the covert mission of fully integrating their supporters into the UK, have probably already agreed such a deal with the DUP, hence their injection of the mandatory socialist state into the document, socialism and unionism by stealth.

  • We already have a Bill of Rights as a result of the Glorious Revolution. We don’t need another, not least to satisfy the leftists in the human rights industry.

  • brendan,belfast

    Patrique – you wrote, “Newton as usual is talking human excrement” without giving one single example of where he is wrong in his aricle of last week. why are yo bringing up breast cancer, heart disease etc – could it be because you cannot find one piece of evidence to back up your illeterate, liberal spouting?

  • Hugh Murphy

    A bill of Rights is a basic necessity in an civilised country. BUT who will ensure that this bill of rights in is adhered to…?

    Here in Dublin, SIPTUs, Jack O’Connor and Joe O’Flynn, aided and abetted by MEP Proinsis De Rossa, the leaders largest union in the state are covering up the corruption of Connolly and Larkin’s union in Belfast.

    Connolly and Larkin’s union were betrayed by the union chairman, Jim Austin, who changed sides and joined the employers – taking the job of Labour Controller – after having negotiated the Decasualisation Scheme which was to give us jobs for life.

    Austin’s worse atrocity was the setting up of the JDC – Joint Disciplinary Committee for sacking any Docker the employers or union considered a trouble maker.

    A full account of Austin’s betrayal and how the union committee ‘feathered their own nests’ can be found on several sites – by googleing Corrupt Siptu Hugh Murphy.

    On several occasions, at large meeting, I’ve called De Rossa, Jack O’Connor and Joe O’Flynn corrupt, but they won’t sue me. Why…? De Rossa has already sued Eamon Dunphy to protect his {supposed GOOD NAME and was awarded £100,000 Punts.

    As stated, I believe in a Bill of Rights, but must ask – who will enforce the Rights on the Trade Unions…?

    Hugh Murphy

  • The Dubliner

    “A bill of Rights is a basic necessity in an civilised country.” – Hugh Murphy

    There already is one: the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law.

    So, the question is what’s wrong with the one you already have?

  • Part of the problem Dubliner is that there are an array of differing conventions, declarations and protocols on human rights. They are not identical.

    Incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into law is one thing. Incorporating, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is another.

    Some overlap. Some deal specifically with certain areas.

    The European Convention, for example, deals chiefly, but not exclusively, with civil liberties. Other Conventions and Declarations, of which the Universal Declaration is one, contain economic rights.

    Both have been signed up to by the British and Irish governments. But signing up to something, ratifying it and incorporating it into law are very different things.

    In short, simply because two things might have the words ‘human rights’ in the title, doesn’t mean they necessarily have much in common.

  • The Dubliner

    Frank, what extra rights do the citizens of Northern Ireland need that are not guaranteed to them under the ECHR? All Council of Europe member states are party to the ECHR and all citizens of member states who think their rights have been violated can take a case to the Court seeking redress and recompense – the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights are legally binding on each member state.

    The function of the Bill of Rights Forum isn’t one of ratification or incorporation of existing rights, but rather it is one of the creation of new rights, so your comments are irrelevant to the actual process. So, what extra rights do they need?

  • The Dubliner

    Just to make the obvious more obvious: The function of the Bill of Rights Forum isn’t one of ratification or incorporation of existing rights, but rather it is one of the creation of new rights, so your comments are irrelevant to the actual process.

    If it was, the forum would be comprised of experts in law, not trade unions and churches. 😉

  • Animus

    The DUP are members. Nelson McCausland and Peter Weir are members, with Simon Hamilton sitting in, and other DUP reps on the working groups.

  • The Dubliner

    Animus, you’re correct. Despite linking to the members’ list, counting the members, counting the members who are MLAs, etc, to IPJ earlier, I still missed the DUP. It’s just as well I’m not being paid to write this stuff.

  • Animus

    Just another point – rights aren’t created, they are recognised. I think this is a crucial distinction, which could take the sting out of discussions on ‘giving’ people rights.

    Dubliner – I agree with you fully about public mandate vs private office. Many of the civil reps have a long commitment to rights without looking at lefty ideas. I get the sense that it’s lefty to look at gay rights, but quite correct to look at rights for older people. And yet, there may well be a number of overlaps which show that we are more united than divided, at least in day to day life. Part of the reason for a Bill of Rights is to offer a vision of society as we would like to be (preamble usually). This is a USP for the bill of rights. I would also argue that the human rights act has some serious gaps which could be remedied in a Bill here.

  • Dubliner,

    I think it might be easiest if you simply reread my post number 22 a little more closely.

    In it, I point to some of the differences between the European Convention and another human rights document to point out the fact that there are distinctions.

    You might believe people do not need more rights than are in the Convention. That’s a perfectly valid point of view. Some argue that we do not even need the rights in that Convention and that they go too far.

    I believe that over time society will evolve to the recognition and provision for socio-economic rights, a process already underway and existing in some countries.

    The Bill of Rights is not, by the way, creating new rights. These rights already exist and you already have them under, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You have a right to housing and health. You were born with it. You can no more not have it than you can not have a head. But there is a difference between having a right and it being recognised and legislated for.

    Should the proposed Bill of Rights introduce economic rights it is not creating new rights, it is legislating for rights you have that you are not enjoying. Again, they might not be rights you feel are necessary or practical, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have them.

  • The Dubliner

    “Just another point – rights aren’t created, they are recognised. I think this is a crucial distinction, which could take the sting out of discussions on ‘giving’ people rights.” – Animus

    Laws of science are recognised. Laws of mankind are invented. Muslims, for example, dismiss the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as rooted in Judeo-Christian values that are not compatible with Islamic law. Because the process of certifying a right is secular and subjective, not objective, it can’t be universal, despite the UN’s proffering it as such.

    “I get the sense that it’s lefty to look at gay rights, but quite correct to look at rights for older people. And yet, there may well be a number of overlaps which show that we are more united than divided, at least in day to day life.” – Animus

    Again, these are not human rights, but are properly the function of socio-political policies that should be determined at the discretion of the government of the day, not made mandatory by inserting them into a binding Bill of Rights.

    “I would also argue that the human rights act has some serious gaps which could be remedied in a Bill here.” – Animus

    And I would argue that folks who have violated human rights on an epic scale are not fit and proper people to be involved in determining what human rights are deemed to be. Do you really want the people who are most responsible for creating The Troubles in NI, PSF and the DUP, to be involved in this process or would you rather that the HRA and UN conventions, covenants, etc, should take precedence over the self-serving machinations of sociopaths?

    “The Bill of Rights is not, by the way, creating new rights. These rights already exist and you already have them under, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You have a right to housing and health. You were born with it.” – Frank Little

    You have a right to a house, sure, but you don’t have a right to have a house provided for you by the state; what you have is a right to buy a house if you can afford it. Likewise, you have a right to health, but you don’t have a right to free health care unless a government grants free health care. This is where the socialists are trying to obfuscate ‘rights’ with socio-political policies, placing obligations of the state that shouldn’t be placed there.

  • Hugh Murphy

    Dear Dubliner,

    Obviously Monica McWilliams of NIHRC hasn’t heard of the 1998 Human Rights Act as she believes that Trade Unions are outside her remit and she can’t take any action against them.

    Is she wrong and is telling me a pack of lies…?

  • Animus

    Dubliner – if you had come to any of the debates, you would know that no one is arguing that the state should provide you with a house. Nor is anyone arguing for free health care, it’s more to do with access to health care. For example, a elderly gentleman was denied hospital treatment because he was over 65. There is no legislation on age discrimination, but if one argued that denying treatment solely on the basis of age was a violation of his right to health care, he could make a strong case.

    Far from obfuscation on behalf of all these socialists (I would personally love to know who all these socialists on the forum are), it’s a chance to put on record that housing and health care are recognised as rights that everyone should be able to pursue. I do wonder if people are confused between the right to pursue something (and the many obstacles which prevent them) and the actual provision. I really don’t think anyone who makes a considered attempt would argue that way, particularly if you look at international human rights standards. People like Newton would be advised to have a good look at international standards and see how they could be usefully applied in a Northern Ireland context. That’s what the forum is doing, and I’m sure they would welcome comments from informed spectators.

    I would also argue, perhaps controversially, that those who have sought to deny rights actually have to be at the table. If they don’t sign up, the whole project fails.

  • Hugh Murphy

    Would some of the experts on Human Rights care to comment on the denial of human rights by Monica McWilliams and the NIHRC.

    The Belfast Dockers, during the 50’s, 60,s 70’s and 80’s were led by a union which had been corrupted by the employers.

    As stated in an earlier post, the Traitorous Jim Austin was responsible for most of the betrayal of Larkin and Connolly – but the main culprit was the head office of ITGWU in Dublin. Many many times I complained to them and received nothing but an insult.

    In my earlier post I questioned who would make the trade unions accept that they must grant human rights to their members – {ie the SIPTU COVER-UP} but I will take this a step further and ask: Who will make Monica McWilliams and the NIHRC do their job and fight for Human Rights…?

    Is it not hypocritical in the extreme for Monica and the NIHRC to claim – that because of legislation they can’t investigate ITGWU and SIPTU – because they aren’t allowed to.


    Hugh Murphy