The proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland has come under attack from an unexpected quarter, the Church of Ireland Gazette. The latest editorial has called for the proposals to be dropped. It describes the case for a bill as “weak” and “special pleading”. It argues the process has a political agenda:
“It is obvious that there are those in the Stormont establishment who want a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, as opposed to the UK as a whole, because they want Northern Ireland to relate more closely to the Republic of Ireland than to the rest of the UK. That is an undemocratic and, therefore, unacceptable agenda.
“A Bill of Rights is such a foundational document that, if there has to be one, it should refer to the entire UK; it would be inconsistent for there to be different fundamental rights in different parts of the one country. For many reasons, a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights is plainly and simply wrong.”
Both the source and nature of the attack are somewhat surprising although the arguments over sexual orientation regulations may have cooled Anglican attitudes to the human rights agenda. IF the editorial is representative of Church thinking then the Bill of Rights Forum process appears not to be increasing buy in and would increase the wiggle room of the Unionist parties who have been consistently cool on the notion. Also the editorial’s preferred option, a UK wide process, is presently being considered as part of the Governance of Britian consultations (pdf file).