Why Northern Ireland needs a Bill of Rights

Given we’ve had quite a few pieces on Slugger arguing the case against the need for a Bill of Rights, we have a piece from Chris Sidoti, independent Chair of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum, in which he lays out five reasons why we do need a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

From Chris Sidoti

Almost ten years ago, the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement of 1998 foreshadowed a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. It was a commitment by all the participants, endorsed overwhelmingly by the people of Northern Ireland by referendum, to ensure human rights for all. Yet, after a decade of debate, some still ask why Northern Ireland needs a Bill of Rights. Chris Sidoti, the Australian human rights expert who chairs Northern Ireland’s Bill of Rights Forum, offers five good reasons.

1. To cement the peace

From the beginnings of modern human rights law, during the years immediately after World War II, the protection of human rights has been seen as essential for peace. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself says, ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’.

Many societies that have emerged from violent conflict, as Northern Ireland has, have incorporated effective protection for human rights in their laws as an essential element in securing the peace. It has re-assured everyone that patterns of human rights violation that might have preceded the violence or arisen during the violence would no longer be tolerated.

Northern Ireland is a society rising out of conflict and suffering. As the 1998 Agreement itself recognised, the new shared future of Northern Ireland must be one built on human rights. A Bill of Rights is the best sure means of achieving that.

2. To address the legacy of the conflict

In a post conflict society, a Bill of Rights can be an effective means of identifying and addressing the continuing issues relating to the conflict. The universal experience is that it is simply impossible to draw a line under the past and pretend that it never happened. Like it or not, societies ultimately are forced to confront their demons.

Without exception, deep social conflicts arise out of human rights violations and generate other human rights violations. The nature of those violations differs, however, from conflict to conflict. These are the “particular circumstances”, the phrase used in the 1998 Agreement, of the particular conflict and society.

A Bill of Rights must address what those circumstances are for Northern Ireland. Certainly recent history here has been quite different from that of other parts of the world but even from that of other parts of the United Kingdom. People in Northern Ireland can be protected under the general law of the United Kingdom and in addition they can benefit from their own Bill of Rights that addresses the legacy of their recent history and their situation.

3. To establish a common standard of achievement

A Bill of Rights deals not only with the past but also with the future. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights described itself as ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’. A domestic Bill of Rights can be a common standard of achievement for a local or national community. It sets out in writing, in one document, the society’s basic commitment to which every person is entitled so that she or he can live a fully human life.

It’s in writing so that there can be no dispute about what has been agreed. It’s in a single document so that there is no need to go searching through a large number of laws and court decisions to find out what those rights are. It should be short and simple, easy to read and easy to understand, so that everyone knows what it contains.

A Bill of Rights can provide that common standard for Northern Ireland’s new shared future. It can be a clear statement of what all people here and their political and civic leaders commit themselves to achieving. It is a compact between the government and the governed as the basis for civil, cultural, economic, political and social life. It is not only a means of dealing with the past. Far more importantly, it is a means of shaping the future.

4. To provide a simple basis of human rights protection

Many laws protecting human rights already apply to the United Kingdom as a whole or to Northern Ireland specifically. They are important and will need to be continued. But they need an overarching framework that does not contain all the detail necessary in those kinds of laws and that does not divide up human rights.

A Bill of Rights can play that role in Northern Ireland. It need not provide all the detail about equality protection or criminal justice, for example. It provides the basis, the broader context and framework, within which more detailed and more specific laws are drafted, interpreted and implemented.

In providing a basis for human rights protection, a Bill of Rights can provide many different means of implementation. International law recognises this, saying that protection is the responsibility of the government, the parliament and the courts as necessary and appropriate.

The courts, of course, have important roles to play but they are not always the only or even the most appropriate protectors. Parliaments too have roles. The best means of protection will vary from society to society, according to constitutional arrangements and to local political and legal cultures. In some cases the protection of some rights will be better entrusted to the courts while the protection of other rights will be better entrusted to the parliament.

A Bill of Rights can ensure the best mechanisms for implementation. It must be appropriate to the constitutional, political and legal systems of Northern Ireland. That is how international standards are applied to domestic situations.

5. To protect the rights of everyone, equally

Human rights are the universal inheritance of all human beings. A Bill of Rights is for everyone. It is not for members of one part of the community alone, for example, for women but not for men or for members of one ethnic or religious group but not another. It is not only about the rights of minorities. Certainly, in many situations, minorities are oppressed and their rights violated. But in many other situations majorities can be subjected to persecution and deprived of the enjoyment of their rights by small ruling elites. A Bill of Rights must provide protection for everyone’s rights.

A Bill of Rights builds its protection from the bottom up, addressing in particular the needs of those who suffer human rights violations, the poorest and most marginalised. Ten years have passed since the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Northern Ireland in 2008 is a completely different place from what it was in 1998. For many, life has improved dramatically. But for many others, it has not. There are still areas where the impact of thirty years of conflict is experienced every day. A Bill of Rights can help those people by protecting the basic rights and freedoms to which they are entitled.

If the poorest and most marginalised people in Northern Ireland benefit from a Bill of Rights, then everyone will benefit.

My view

Whether Northern Ireland gets a Bill of Rights is up to the people of Northern Ireland. I have been given a role in developing proposals but I have no right to make the decision. For these five good reasons, I see a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights as essential in ensuring the new future that the people of Northern Ireland and their political and civic leaders have said they want. It alone is not enough but, in my view, for what it’s worth, it has an essential part to play.

The decision, however, is yours.

  • Shore Road Resident

    What a load of vacuous waffle. Not a single substantive point or example of even one instance where we need separate provision.
    How much is this guy getting paid?

  • I couldn’t help thinking that myself. A succession of meaningless platitudes without any substance whatsoever.

    I have yet to hear a single compelling point for a human rights bill never mind a full argument for it.

  • cut the bull

    I agree that a genuine and workable bill of rights is needed but I would argue that it is realistically about ten years too late.

    A Peace idustry has sadly been created in this state and the private land developers have grabbed almost any available land to fill their pockets.

    While multi nationals see this place as a haven for cheap labour.

    Several hundred community jobs have been created and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, euros and dollars have supposedly been
    pumped into working class areas,

    Yet if you take a quick look at or in depth study into areas such as the Short Strand, Ravenhill Rd, Bawnmore, Rathcoole, Falls Rd or the Shankill there is no visible sign of real improvement.

    There are no new factories, no long term employment and there is still the ever present and in some cases increasing borders and fences, shrewdly termed as peace lines.

    I would agree with the point you make when you state;

    “If the poorest and most marginalised people in Northern Ireland benefit from a Bill of Rights, then everyone will benefit.”

    Though I would not hold my breath waiting on this to happen.

    I hope when it does come about it will have some degree of sucess.

  • Twinbrook

    What have you to fear from a Bill of Rights…..

  • Animus

    I’m saddened that people can’t see sense in this – it could use some editing, but the gist of it remains fairly sensible. If you don’t want something, you will never hear a convincing argument (like creationists, no matter how much proof is provided, they just aren’t open to consideration.)

    Here’s the gist for you slow learners:
    NI is still in a pickle and will be for some time to come. An understanding of human rights is one tool to make progress. A bill of rights would elucidate what people could expect from the state as well as writing down formally an aspiration of achievement which values everyone equally.

  • red branch

    what a load of Bollocks – with the ECHR and all the other protections already in domestic law, we don’t need a Bill of Rights.

    Secondly the Belfast Agreement did not foreshadow a Bill of Rights it called for the examination of any supplementary rights that needed to be enshrined specifically in Northern ireland.

    Currently the Bill of Rights forum seems to be a new grievance factory and in a country that is knee deep in restrictive legislation the last thing we need is more.

    It’s a pity the human rights experts and general do gooders wouldn’t shuffle off to another part of the world that needs their help and expertise. I think we’ll survive without them.

  • How about the right not to have your taxes wasted on pointless f**king exercises that will either:
    a) duplicate existing protections
    b) contribute to the wealth of parasitic lawyers hell bent on growing an already obscene claim-culture
    c) create superfluous rights where none should exist (the ‘right’ to fill in planning applications in Ulster-Scots, anyone?)
    d) all of the above

  • The Dubliner

    Taking the points in his sales pitch in turn:

    1. Consolidation of social stability is a political function. Having an extra document on the shelf which gives extra rights (whatever they may be) will have as much impact in preventing murder gangs as all the other documents conveying rights on the shelf (such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, etc) had in preventing the last lot of murder gangs.

    People won’t be “re-assured” that “human rights violation” will “no longer be tolerated” just because a document says they won’t be. Laws say murder won’t be tolerated, and (except for political purposes of expediency such as Paul Quinn, etc) it isn’t, but not tolerating something and stopping others from doing it aren’t the same thing. That function is best served by law enforcement, not utopian statements.

    Lastly, human rights were always respected in law, so law isn’t the problem: lack of respect for the rule of law is. Train the murderous plebs how to respect existing rights rather than create new rights and we have a deal.

    2. This is the function of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, not a Human Rights Commission. Also, where are the “human rights violations” that lead “without exception” to violence? NI’s “particular circumstances” seem to be that it is an exception to a rule that he states there are no exceptions to. Does he think that gerrymandering is a human rights violation?

    3. Trying to justify a BoR on the grounds that it will serve as a Lazy Idiot’s Guide to HRA is just ridiculous. A website linking the different documents would be a far better and cheaper means to this end. As for the unifying aspect, so far it is having the opposite effect: creating further division and dispute.

    4. A BoR is not required simply as a means streamlining delivery of services that are available by other means. That administrative efficiency is best achieved by administrative efficiency, oddly enough.

    5. Yes, we’re all aware that rights are for all of the society. Tell us something we don’t know, professor.

  • Animus

    Human rights isn’t about settling scores – it’s about changing the way people understand their relationship with the state. If we’re doing so well without it, then why is it legal under the HRA to abuse the rights of older people. People have such a narrow (mis)understanding of human rights. This means that closing loopholes will not duplicate existing provision. Most people arguing for human rights are not doing so because of a grievance (that’s what politics in this country exists to do as far as I can see).

    Red Branch – the Agreement is wide open for interpretation, even among its own architects. So I don’t think you can convince many that you know exactly what it had in mind.

    Is it wrong to look at people and recognise their inherent dignity, rather than just as consumers or people with needs? That’s what human rights does when it works well. And being jaded about it doesn’t really help – I’d be curious about how the naysayers would implement change? Any ideas or just general carping? I can’t help but think of those two old muppets…

  • perci

    thread split 50:50 Unionists against, Nationalists for. Wretchedly unsuprising indeed.

  • Twinbrook

    What if………………………

    Instead of 50 years of enlightened Unionist one party rule at Stormont…

    There had of been a Bill of Rights…

  • eranu

    as far as i can see the only people who want a BoR are people who still think they are in some sort of struggle against their own state. they seem to want some extra laws to ‘get back at them with’. they actually seem to think somebodys going to pull a fast one on them or something. isnt the UK one of the worlds great democracies? isnt their loads of euro laws that all the other states are happy enough with? ofcourse.
    just when you thought nationalists were taking their first few steps into normality at stormont, they suffer a relapse back to the old oppression line. dear oh dear.

    why dont you come up with a draft or something and let everyone read it? so far not a single person has suggested a ‘right’ that is needed. all that ive read are a few suggestions of ‘rights’ that are just a way for people to get their own way on something. a blind man can see that.

  • perci

    Twinbrook,
    I’d have settled for the Old Bill (peelers) doing anything Right in 50yrs of unionist mis-rule 😉

  • Steve

    A bill of rights should be the foundation of every countries juris prudence

    A written and ammendable rights formula is not a limit on the power of the people but a limit on the powers of the government and as such should be welcome by all.

    There will be some challenges but speaking from expierience there will be surprisingly few and mostly by those wishing to expand the rights. A well written and documented bill of rights would be a worthwhile project for both communities.

  • Diluted Orange

    Bill of rights?

    Why don’t we just cut out the middle man in all this, no-doubt expensive, exercise and send the money to lawyers directly?

    So what is going to be in this bill of rights? A few suggestions:

    1. You do not have the right to become rich and untouchable, it seems, by becoming a loyalist paramilitary and selling drugs to kids.

    2. You don’t have the right to kill innocent people, because you think you’re participating in a ‘war’ and then get let out scot-free only a matter of years/months later.

    3. You don’t have the right to have your miserable existence paid for by my taxes because you couldn’t be bothered to get up out of bed in the morning to do a decent day’s work.

    /rant

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]”Human rights isn’t about settling scores – it’s about changing the way people understand their relationship with the state.”[/i]

    No offence, but did you write this article? Because it sounds just as pretentious.

    People in Northern Ireland need to get a reality check, especially those who bang on about their ‘human rights’. We’ve got it good here, very good and make no mistake.

    If anywhere needs a bill of rights, or just some basic, bog-standard, ‘I have a right to live’ human rights in place to protect its citizens, there are many, many more deserving places, such as Sudan, Palestine, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Burma, etc, etc …

  • willis

    “People in Northern Ireland need to get a reality check, especially those who bang on about their ‘human rights’. We’ve got it good here, very good and make no mistake.”

    Well D.O. you will never get a job as a journalist.

    You are right though.

    If a BOR achieves anything, it will be to enable the “Parties” to agree on what they can and cannot do.

  • Rory

    What in the name of all ‘at’s holy is all this Bill o’ Rights jazz? It jest gets folks agitated.

    A man ony gotta look at Alabama or ol’ Mississip’ or that South Africa or that there Ireland place to git hisself a load o’ hoss sense and jest know that it don’t do nobody no good no how. An’ I done said it now. It only gonna bring change – an’ change don’t nevah do nobody no good no how.

    I knows I done said that afore but et’s worth repeatin’. Ain’t it?

    My sister Rosasharn she sur done changed since that new fancy estate agent come to town. Don’t recognise a man’s needs no more. An’ dammit! a man’s rights!

    A man’s got rights. Ain’t he?

  • Harry Flashman

    *Human rights isn’t about settling scores – it’s about changing the way people understand their relationship with the state.*

    Indeed the relationship will change, for the worse.

    Currently the relationship we have with the state is that anything not actively forbidden by the law is permitted. An extremely healthy mature attitude. When you decide to codify a list of “rights”, this changes. Now, instead of being free citizens permitted to associate with whomever we like and to hold whatever political opinions we desire free from state interference, we are being handed our “rights” from the government. Suddenly things that you were previously permitted to do become illegal if your activities fall foul of a judge, this despite there being no law forbidding it.

    Take your abuse of the rights of the elderly, I’m not sure what you mean by this. I guess what you mean is that because elderly people have a hard time by virtue of their age, you don’t like this and believe there ‘should be a law against it’. Fine but what shape will this law take, it will no doubt involve other people, not elderly (employers, business owners, voluntary associations etc), being forced to change their behaviour in ways which they had previously not wanted to do.

    You will say good, that’s the way it should be, but what you are doing is not furthering human rights – after all you are merely imposing the rights of one group against those of another – but enshrining your political wish list in immutable law.

    To give an example, when the Disablity Rights Act (or whatever its correct title is) was brought in everyone applauded its enlightened approach to disability rights. I remember listening to a radio phone in on the topic and the owner of a small antiques boutique in some little English town was being interviewed. Her small shop was accessed by means of old stone steps, she was told she would have to change this in order for her not to fall foul of the new legislation, but the costs of doing so were prohibitively expensive and would force her out of business. The representative of the disability lobby (and isn’t it remarkable how much power unelected lobbyists suddenly achieve when these things come into existence?) simply told her that his rights to enter her shop trumped her rights to stay in business.

    To those who believe that a Bill of Rights would increase freedoms rather than diminish them, I ask, will these freedoms be universal? Will people who hold, for example, unpopular opinions about homosexuality, Islam or immigration have their rights to free speech and free association protected, no matter how “offensive” they may be? If not, you are restricting freedom not increasing it.

    You may like increased state restrictions on citizens’ freedom, I don’t.

  • The Dubliner

    “Human rights isn’t about settling scores – it’s about changing the way people understand their relationship with the state.” – Animus

    What does this actually mean? I know it sounds great, and I may even use it on a client in a suitably modified form: “Zinc cladding isn’t about settling scores – it’s about changing the way people understand their relationship with the building.”

    Do you mean that it is government information program, like warning people not to drink and drive or to attend a breast-screening clinic if they are women over the age forty? If the intent is educational, then it isn’t necessary to demolish the local library and rebuild it out of recycled fluorescent pink cardboard just to draw public attention to it. No, an advert in a local paper is a more effective solution. However, if the process is not about changing people’s understanding of their relationship with the state but is about changing their relationship with the state, then how exactly will this relationship be changed and to what purpose? To give the citizen greater control over the state or to give the state greater control over the citizen?

    I haven’t heard any convincing argument that supplementary rights are required, nor that existing rights require consolidation. All I have heard is many witchdoctors promising that their voodoo will work wonders. I prefer doctors to quacks.

    Personally, if I was a unionist, I’d support a BoR for a purpose unrelated to its stated purpose, i.e. the more distinct you become from the Republic, the further the chances of unity recede. So, having a mandatory socialist state that is dependent upon the hard work, enterprise and generosity of the UK taxpayer for its parasitic Ultra Nannystate status would be a worthwhile price (for others) to pay in order to maintain the union. If northern nationalist dream that the right-of-centre, free market Republic will ever indulge them to that degree, then the poor deluded dreamers are in for a very rude awakening.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]”A man ony gotta look at Alabama or ol’ Mississip’ or that South Africa or that there Ireland place to git hisself a load o’ hoss sense and jest know that it don’t do nobody no good no how.”[/i]

    I see we’ve only got so far as post 18 before the familiar old fantasy of Nationalist discrimination being on a par with black people in the deep South of the States and South Africa is peddled out. Zzzzzz.

  • DK

    Unless the new bill of rights can fit on one side of a piece of paper in large type, no-one will read it and it will all have been a waste of money. Why not just copy another one. Here is the English one from 1689 (cut and pasted from wikipedia):

    1. the right of petition
    2. an independent judiciary (the Sovereign was forbidden to establish his own courts or to act as a judge himself),
    3. freedom from taxation by royal (executive) prerogative, without agreement by Parliament (legislators),
    4. freedom from a peace-time standing army,
    5. freedom [for Protestants] to bear arms for self-defence,
    6. freedom to elect members of Parliament without interference from the Sovereign,
    7. freedom of speech in Parliament,
    8. freedom from cruel and unusual punishments and excessive bail, and
    9. freedom from fines and forfeitures without trial

  • aquifer

    A bill of rights should be an assertion of individual rights against group rights, but probably won’t be.

    i.e. Individuals are victimised and threatened in the name of some sectarian cause or other, and the state stands by, essentially licensing abuse.

    The state needs to be able to clear sectarian gangsters off the street, interning them if necessary if they continue to conspire to deny individuals their rights to peaceful co-existence.

    If individuals conspire to deny others opportunity, they require correction, exemplary punishment.

    Until the ‘rights’ lawyers quit providing cover for murder gangs and grasp this, we have no rights worth the name.

    The lawyers have made plenty from illegal conspiracies, they should at least declare an interest.

  • Hogan

    Isn’t it obvious why we need a bill of rights?

    To keep the career QUANGO-ists like Sidoti in a job!

  • Hogan

    “But they need an overarching framework that does not contain all the detail necessary in those kinds of laws and that does not divide up human rights.

    A Bill of Rights can play that role in Northern Ireland. It need not provide all the detail about equality protection or criminal justice, for example. It provides the basis, the broader context and framework, within which more detailed and more specific laws are drafted, interpreted and implemented.”

    Give that man an award for BS!

  • DC

    I’d far rather concentrate on ways to promote and encourage attitudinal change towards people and amongst them, rather than having legislation telling us that we ought to do that and that the state has obligations in writing.

    The EU should have by now legislated enough of this over-riding legislation re Rights and so on time to set to work on ideas from the people up about how well treat each other and what actors or other psychological agents, etc are causing people to behave in a way which contravenes fundamental human rights all too often.

  • Animus

    Pretentious, moi?

    The DDA required organisations to make ‘reasonable’ amendments – it sounds like the case Harry cited was either a misunderstanding or out of proportion. I don’t think anyone’s rights trump another’s in such cases.

    Harry, for information about what I’m talking about for abuse of the elderly, have a look at the Joint Commission on Human Rights report on healthcare. It’s not whether I don’t like it. There is a difference between likes and dislikes, which can be whimsical and capricious, and what amounts to abuse. Some human rights abuses may amount to criminal proceedings, others may not. For example, separating an elderly couple and forcing them into different nursing homes is not illegal, but may breach a right to family life.

    Having negative opinions about Islam or homosexuals or bloggers will be unaffected by a Bill of Rights. It is about how the state recognises people’s rights, not whether there are petty squabbles between individuals.

  • no spin please

    Secondly the Belfast Agreement did not foreshadow a Bill of Rights it called for the examination of any supplementary rights that needed to be enshrined specifically in Northern ireland.

    Posted by red branch on Jan 08, 2008 @ 04:48 PM

    Good Friday Agreement, Page 17, Point 4… clearly states that supplementary rights to those in ECHR are required to reflect the paricular cirmcumstances of NI. These additional rights are to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities, and taken together with the ECHR, will “CONSTITUTE” a bill of rights for NI.

    Stop misleading people with your spin. Read the document. It was part of the Belfast agreement and was part of the St. Andrews agreement.

  • HubbleBubble

    I haven’t heard any convincing argument that supplementary rights are required, nor that existing rights require consolidation

    Posted by the Bubliner!

    30 years of Human Rights abuses inflicted by the state on citizens in Da’North, not convincing enough for ye!!
    Several high profile Human Rights violations, successful prosecuted by the European Court of Human Rights against the British state in relation to the North.
    The collusion of state agents in death squads and subversion of state law, as exposed in stevens, stalker, etc, etc.

    And thats the tip of the iceberg!
    Never mind the Human Rigts abuses, you seem to be against protection for the vunerable in our society. I’m all right jack, feck the rest of ye!! Is that it?

    Are there not some roundabouts you need to clear of freeloading foreigners, rather than spending your valuable “time” patronising us nordies!!

  • Why on earth would you put quotation marks around “time” ?

    “Valuable” I’d have understood, but “time” ?

    It kind of detracts from what was otherwise a perfectly sanctimonious rant.

  • eranu

    i see we’ve reached the ‘death squads’ level. if someone says ‘securocrats’ i swear i’ll piss myself… 🙂

    if the pro BoR people cant think of a single right to put in it then maybe, just maybe, its not actually needed???

    all this sounds a bit like mopery. infact its a new type of mopery. its moping about something that hasnt actually happened, but you think may happen in the future, but at the minute you’re not actually sure what it is, but you’re pretty sure that something bad could happen..
    ‘future oppression’ ??

    definitely one of the craziest ideas from NI lately. demand for a bill…. with nothing in it!

  • willowfield

    We already have a bill of rights: it’s called the European Convention on Human Rights and was brought into our domestic law over seven years ago.

    Does this unelected Chris Sidoti character not know this?

    Notice that he hasn’t put forward even one example of any rights which we need that we do not already have.

  • aquifer

    The circumstances of NI are kind of unique though. People have democratic means to express their views and persuade others, but chose to try to abuse and blackmail people instead. Others imagine that citizenship is conditional on ‘loyalty’ to the state, when compliance with laws is enough.

    Essentially special political and cultural claims are made by means of violence or coercion, according undue prominence to cultural positions that may not be our own.

    People purposefully ignore the democratic rights we have, and the state colludes in this, as it does not want to spell people’s rights out, to make administration more convenient. Maybe a bill of rights needs to set it out simply: Yes you can stand for election. Yes you all have a vote. Yes you can ask for help from an MP you did not vote for.

    We have the right not to be labelled, rights to move freely throughout the territory.

    So what are all those raggedy flags on the lamp posts and candy striped kerbstones?

    Why are Housing Executive estates ethnic monocultures?

    And how did the state license religious organisations to run its schools?

    How public are the buildings funded by the public purse? What space do minority or pop cultures get? If they can get access is that space culturally loaded?

    Is our wonderful coalition government asserting a right to repartition yet?

  • lib2016

    The problem of leaving Human Rights at the European Level is the delay in getting a remedy when the state exceeds it’s powers. Something which has happened all to frequently in NI.

    Moreover if or when a remedy is finally found the whole of the UK is judged guilty although the state’s wrongdoing is usually confined to what went on in one rather embarrassing colony.

    The current scandal, just one of many, where the British State has been ordered to institute proper investigations into 23 contested killings sometimes by their own agents is just a step on the way to finding out what happened during the ‘dirty war’.

    In other more democratic places, like Spain for example, ministers have gone to jail over such matters.

    In Britain we can be sure that the buck will stop at the NI level in these and other upcoming cases. That’s why the NI Bill of Rights suits everybody – the Irish get to be sure that the good old days aren’t ever coming back and the Brits get a patsy, 800,000 patsies to be more exact.

    Seems fair enough to me. Unionism lived by manipulating the law to suit itself, now the law is being used to make sure the Orange state can never return.

  • Harry Flashman

    *Having negative opinions about Islam or homosexuals or bloggers will be unaffected by a Bill of Rights. It is about how the state recognises people’s rights, not whether there are petty squabbles between individuals.*

    If you believe this then you need to examine the appalling anti-free speech activities of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions which have criminalised unpopular thought, they even said “truth is no defence”.

  • Rory

    “Why are Housing Executive estates ethnic monocultures? “

    I don’t know, Aquifer. I don’t even know if this is a “bad thing2 or a “good thing”.

    If it is the latter am I required to cheer? If the former, what do you suggest I do about it?

    Really that above should read, “What are you going to do about it?”. As for me – I’m off to bed.

  • The Dubliner

    “I haven’t heard any convincing argument that supplementary rights are required or that existing rights require consolidation.” – The Dubliner

    “30 years of Human Rights abuses inflicted by the state on citizens in Da’North, not convincing enough for ye!!” – HubbleBubble

    The human rights violations by the state came after PIRA’s murder campaign against the state and its citizens, not before. Those violations were, by definition (and, in a few cases, by conviction), abuses of existing rights. Ergo, none of them were prevented by existing rights. Since rights don’t prevent violation, creating new rights won’t prevent violation of them. You need to look at mechanisms that do prevent violation, rather than miss the actual flaw in the system.

    Most human rights violations in NI were committed directly by PSF/PIRA. In addition to the human rights violations that they are directly responsible for, they hold a degree of responsibility for all of the other human rights violations that were committed by others in direct response to their organised murder campaign against others.

    One mechanism aimed at preventing abuses of human rights is to ensure that those who commit them do not profit from them. Unfortunately, that mechanism has been violated by the state and its citizens in the ‘peace process’ which has at its core the tactic of systematically rewarding those who systematically violated human rights as a means of self-advancement. Others mechanism aimed at preventing abuses of human rights are to ensure that proper investigation occurs which is not subject to political imperatives or ‘public interest’ impediments; that the justice system is not compromised in either prosecution or severity of sentence, and that members of organised murder gangs whose vile trade is the systematic abuse of human rights are not released from prison as part of a reward program given to the organisers of the gangs. Lastly, people should be educated in regard to how they vote, e.g. that if you vote for people who support human rights violations as a political tactic, then you support human rights violations.

    “Several high profile Human Rights violations, successful prosecuted by the European Court of Human Rights against the British state in relation to the North. The collusion of state agents in death squads and subversion of state law, as exposed in stevens, stalker, etc, etc.” – HubbleBubble

    Again, none of these occurred before PIRA’s murder campaign of organised human rights violation and in direct response to it. You can’t use events that occurred after the fact to support your case for why you began to organise the systematic human rights violations of other citizens.

    “Are there not some roundabouts you need to clear of freeloading foreigners, rather than spending your valuable “time” patronising us nordies!!” – HubbleBubble

    See, you ‘nordies’ complain if southerners ignore you, and then you complain if southerners don’t ignore you. Complaining seems to be the common theme.

    “Never mind the Human Rigts abuses, you seem to be against protection for the vunerable in our society. I’m all right jack, feck the rest of ye!! Is that it?” – HubbleBubble

    Everybody is vulnerable to a bullet or a bomb. They are best protected by not supporting those who shoot and bomb their way to power. If you are using the word “vulnerable” in the socialist political manner that Sidoti used it, then you are confusing socio-economic factors and policies with human rights. Here is what Sidoti said in his point NO 5, giving his own socialist agenda away:

    “If the poorest and most marginalised people in Northern Ireland benefit from a Bill of Rights, then everyone will benefit.”

    The poor have the same rights as every other citizen. That is what equality of rights means. That is the only thing it must mean. If you misuse the Bo in the manner that Sidoti wants – using it to force socialist socio-economic and political policies on the government – then you pervert the democratic process and create an imbalance of rights, wherein the enterprising are forced to work harder to pay for the ‘rights’ of the un-enterprising. It isn’t equal when it enforces unequal rights.

    But yes, it is a matter of “I’m alright Jack” in respect to paying for the pampered status of “nordies.” When your public spending as a percentage of GDP goes upwards from its current parasitic level of 71.6% in order to pay for all these new socio-economic ‘rights’ you can be fully assured that no southerner will ever touch unity with a ninety mile bargepole. You will have locked yourselves into a Nannystate that will earn the full contempt of the rest of Europe (and the rest of the UK) in due course.

    It’s the free market, stupid.

  • The Dubliner

    Typo: “Again, none of these occurred before PIRA’s murder campaign of organised human rights violation and [b]are a[/b] direct response to it.”

  • lib2016

    “Again, none of these occurred before PIRA’s murder campaign…”

    Even Trimble had to admit the NI was ‘a cold place’ for Catholics. People have a right to expect equitable treatment in housing and jobs.

    Never mind housing and jobs, even before the border was set up the Northern nationalist was subject to arbitary detention and harassment at the hands of sectarian paramilitary forces such as the B Specials.

    That’s why Emergency Legislation had to be introduced and is still in force to this day. Not to defend law and order but to defend the absence of it.

  • The Dubliners

    lib2016, I’m pleased to see you changed your mind about Slugger being a ‘cold house’ for you.

    I’m not disputing that Stormont was pro-unionist prior to the Provos and assorted Marxist agitators engineering their campaign of organised human rights violation, merely that it was a ‘regime’ that violated human rights. If, however, you have evidence of human rights violations during the 60s, please post it.

    The south was an even colder house for nationalists in socio-economic terms: northerners had far greater economic opportunities than their southern counterparts did.

  • lib2016

    Dubliner,

    Thankyou for your good wishes.

    In the 60’s Human Rights were known as Civil Rights. The terminology has changed but the meaning hasn’t.

    There was a body known as NICRA which amassed no small amount of evidence about the violations of Civil Rights taking place in NI during the 1960’s and earlier. You might try ‘Googling’ them if you wish to learn more.

    I don’t understand why anybody is still in denial about well established and agreed facts of history but if you wish to pretend that fifty years of discrimination didn’t happen then by all means do so. You do realise that it completely discredits everything else you post?

  • Alan

    What a disappointing and lawyerly discussion of the BoR. Yes, the BoR will protect rights in court, but that is not the sole focus. Indeed, if that were the case, then there would be no point in spending time devising rights instruments – we could just let the lawyers legislate.

    If you need to see what rights the forum are considering then look at the Forum website at http://www.billofrightsforum.org/ . There is a lot more detail there than could ever be placed on this thread, but then the superficial do want all of us to have the contest in their terms.

    The fundamental difference with the BoR for Northern Ireland is that it is being developed by political parties and people from Northern Ireland. In this way the resulting BoR will recognize the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. It will be an agreed vision for the future of Northern Ireland, not a commentary on the past. Anyone who feels that the BoR should justify the actions of paramilitaries or unconstrained state forces should wake up to the fact that it cannot and should not do that.

    As Chris Sidoti suggests, it will set a common standard of achievement for Northern Ireland. The Assembly and future Assemblies will decide how to measure that standard and face criticism or praise depending on how the electorate view their progress.

    There are rights that we do not have at present, such as to housing, and health care that we can agree to progressively implement, dependent on available resources. A working BoR will provide us with the opportunity to review progress towards such social and economic goals. At its heart, however,those goals will have been agreed by the political parties and people of Northern Ireland.

  • The Dubliner

    Thanks for the info. You might try googling two terms: ‘human rights’ and ‘civil rights.’ I think you will be surprised to discover that they are vastly different classes of rights. You might also try doing a bit of research into a thing called ‘voting rights’ to discover that they are wholly dependent on local laws rather than being universal declarations, and that the NICRA confused them with ‘civil rights.’ They did so in order to claim that they were deprived of them and other wholly invented ‘rights’ which they also obfuscated with universal and natural rights. It’s called ‘propaganda’ and ‘socialist agitation’ and ‘grievance engineering.’

  • The Dubliner

    Err, the above post is in reply to lib2016, specifically: “There was a body known as NICRA which amassed no small amount of evidence about the violations of Civil Rights taking place in NI during the 1960’s and earlier. You might try ‘Googling’ them if you wish to learn more.”

  • The Dubliner

    “There are rights that we do not have at present, such as to housing, and health care that we can agree to progressively implement, dependent on available resources. A working BoR will provide us with the opportunity to review progress towards such social and economic goals.” – Alan

    That is just socialist propaganda. The right to housing exists under Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and under Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The rest of your socialist dogma already exists in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

    So, those things already exist as rights. What you are attempting to do is obfuscate ‘rights’ with mandatory provision of services by the state. The right to housing means that you have the right to own property, i.e. if you earn it, you can own it. You want to change that to the right to own property that you don’t earn but that is earned by others through wealth creation, taken from by taxes, and then given to you by the state.

    All you are doing is transferring the burden of work and wealth creation from one group of citizens onto another, creating a class of people who live a parasitic existence on the backs of others.

  • willowfield

    AQUIFER

    The circumstances of NI are kind of unique though. People have democratic means to express their views and persuade others, but chose to try to abuse and blackmail people instead. Others imagine that citizenship is conditional on ‘loyalty’ to the state, when compliance with laws is enough. Essentially special political and cultural claims are made by means of violence or coercion, according undue prominence to cultural positions that may not be our own.

    And the existence of human rights didn’t stop people from engaging in violence in the past. Why would creating (so far unspecified) “new” rights make any difference in the future?

    People purposefully ignore the democratic rights we have, and the state colludes in this, as it does not want to spell people’s rights out, to make administration more convenient.

    How, then, do you explain the Human Rights Act 1998? Our rights are spelled out pretty clearly in there.

    LIB2016

    The problem of leaving Human Rights at the European Level is the delay in getting a remedy when the state exceeds it’s powers.

    Oh FFS, the Human Rights Act means that they haven’t been left at European level: to use the sound-bite of the time, they were “brought home”.

  • lib2016

    “they were’brought home'”

    Afraid not – the earlier mentioned case where the British government has been instructed, after twenty years be it noted, to institute proper inquiries into the murders of its own citizens is only the tip ot the iceberg.

    In earlier years the British tactic was to obstruct and hinder wherever possible by all the usual methods, destroying evidence, posting witnesses off to the Rhine etc.etc.

    Now that the unionists have been set up as scapegoats the British want local inquiries. The whole point is to make sure no inquiry gets a chance to inquire into the actions of any British Government.

    The RUC and it’s reputation are of no importance, British Army Intelligence has had years to muddy the water so completely that it will be impossible to prove who did what. There will be no trail of blood leading to Whitehall.

    However there are more cases coming up in Europe and someone has to take the blame.

  • willowfield

    Afraid not

    No: the HRA 1998 brought the ECHR into domestic law. That was its purpose.

    Referring to cases from 20 years ago doesn’t alter what is the case today.

    If you think a bill of rights is needed because human rights have been “left at the European level”, then your basis for supporting a bill of rights is fallacious because human rights are not “left at the European level” and haven’t been for over seven years.

  • HubbleBubble

    You might also try doing a bit of research into a thing called ‘voting rights’ to discover that they are wholly dependent on local laws rather than being universal declarations, and that the NICRA confused them with ‘civil rights.’ They did so in order to claim that they were deprived of them and other wholly invented ‘rights’ which they also obfuscated with universal and natural rights. It’s called ‘propaganda’ and ‘socialist agitation’ and ‘grievance engineering.’

    Posted by The Dubliner on Jan 10, 2008 @ 09:04 AM

    The Bubliner,
    So, one man one vote is “socialist agitation” and “grievance engineering”?
    I think i remember your type at trinity or whichever wannabe trinity school you passed through. Probably objected to sanctions in south africa and any attempt to call an end to apartied, etc. You probably bought lots of oranges in dunnes stores and felt good about it!

    How on earth can you be against human rights for those in society that are poorer and more vunerable than the rest of us.

    “All you are doing is transferring the burden of work and wealth creation from one group of citizens onto another, creating a class of people who live a parasitic existence on the backs of others. ”
    “It’s the free market, stupid. ”

    Posted by The Dubliner on Jan 10, 2008 @ 09:52 AM

    NO, its Humanity, STUPID!

    Synonyms: altruism, amity, brotherly love, charity, compassion, empathy, feeling, friendship, generosity, goodness, goodwill, heart, kindheartedness, kindness, mercy, sympathy

    Antonyms: cold-heartedness, ill will, malevolence, meanness, misanthropy, unkindness

  • Mark Thatcher

    If you think a bill of rights is needed because human rights have been “left at the European level”, then your basis for supporting a bill of rights is fallacious because human rights are not “left at the European level” and haven’t been for over seven years.

    Posted by willowfield on Jan 10, 2008 @ 01:50 PM

    The Bill of Rights being “constituted” was signed up to and voted on, in the Good Friday Agrrement. The Bill of Rights is to include rights that are supplementary to the ECHR, and is required to take into account the “particular circumstances” of the North. Thats why its happening. Because 70% of us agreed.
    Anyone who thinks that the situation here over the last 80 years has been similar to that of Finchly, and therfore can be treated as such, needs their head examined!

  • lib2016

    Willowield,

    I suspect you understand very well that having to wait 20 years for a proper investigation to start, and only getting that far on foot of an appeal to European authorities, is not sustainable.

    The only reason why these cases are going forward now is because it was possible to appeal them to European authorities.

    The British authorities don’t want these cases to proceed in London, that might scandalise, even destabilise the British public which has had several murders by the authorities to deal with recently.

    NI cases will be dealt with in NI, British cases will be dealt with in Britain and never the twain will meet.

  • willowfield

    I repeat: referring to 20-year-old cases does not alter the position that exists now.

    Human rights are not “left at the European level” now.

  • willowfield

    Mark Thatcher

    The Bill of Rights being “constituted” was signed up to and voted on, in the Good Friday Agrrement.

    It wasn’t. The GFA merely said that the NIHRC was to consider and advise what “supplementary” rights might be needed. Conceivably it could consider and advise that none is needed.

  • Mark Thatcher

    Willowfield,

    Don’t want to get into a row with you, but…. your wrong.

    Good Friday Agreement, Page 17, Point 4… clearly states that supplementary rights to those in ECHR are required to reflect the particular cirmcumstances of NI. These additional rights are to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities, and taken together with the ECHR, will “CONSTITUTE” a bill of rights for NI.

  • willowfield

    Mark Thatcher

    Did you mean “you’re wrong”?

    I don’t think I am. Here are the relevant provisions (with my added emphasis):

    The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (see paragraph 5 below) will be invited to consult and to advise 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. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be:
    • the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identity and ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and
    • a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors.

    They’ll only “CONSTITUTE” a bill of rights for NI if, having consulted on the scope, the Commission advises that there is such scope. Surely it is conceivable that the Commission could advise that no such scope exists.

  • Mark Thatcher

    Did you mean “you’re wrong”?

    I don’t think I am. Here are the relevant provisions (with my added emphasis):

    The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (see paragraph 5 below) will be invited to consult and to advise 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. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be:
    • the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identity and ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and
    • a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors.

    They’ll only “CONSTITUTE” a bill of rights for NI if, having consulted on the scope, the Commission advises that there is such scope. Surely it is conceivable that the Commission could advise that no such scope exists.

    Posted by willowfield on Jan 10, 2008 @ 04:53 PM

    First of all. Yes i did mean “you’re wrong”. Sorry sir. My only excuse is that i am working and in my haste to avoid conflict with the boss man, don’t proof read.

    I think your interpretation of the GFA is a little subjective, as its entitled to be.

    “to consult and to advise 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”

    It was always the understanding the HRC would constitute a bill of rights, after defining what went into that bill. I don’t think it was ever an option to say that we don’t need any more rights.

    “These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.”

    The HRC could not find agreement, on the defintion and scope and thus the process was “parked”. At no stage was it ever conceiveable that a recomendation to, constitute a bill of rights would not happen. The establishment of the Forum, to complete the process and hand it over to the HRC, was an intergral part of the St Andrews agreement (Annex B, point 4)

  • The Dubliner

    “So, one man one vote is “socialist agitation” and “grievance engineering”?” – HubbleBubble

    Voting franchises in local council elections are not ‘civil rights’ or ‘human rights.’ Their constitution is wholly dependent on local law. NICRA misrepresented voting ‘rights’ as being a universal right which they then claimed that were unjustly deprived of due to sectarian discrimination by an oppressive regime. You can’t be ‘deprived’ of anything that you are not entitled to. Ergo, the grievance was engineered rather than being genuine.

    The right to vote in council elections was conditional on owning a property within the area governed by the council. That was legal. Clearly, it discriminated in favour of the property-owning class, so it was an economic discrimination as opposed to sectarian discrimination (both Catholics and Protestants owned property, were property owners and were tenants). It was unfair, yes, but it was not an abuse of human rights. Blowing the arms off a 14-year-old girl in response to that situation was an abuse of human rights, however.

  • willowfield

    MARK THATCHER

    It was always the understanding the HRC would constitute a bill of rights, after defining what went into that bill. I don’t think it was ever an option to say that we don’t need any more rights.

    I agree that those who agitated for the inclusion of a “bill of rights” provision in the GFA would have been seeking a commitment to having one, and would interpret the provision consistently with that view. I find it interesting, though, that the provision is not drafted with clarity and I ask myself why. Perhaps it was deliberately drafted in this way in order to leave “wriggle room” for a situation in which no consensus is reached about the need for any “additional” rights to those in the ECHR?

  • willowfield

    The Dubliner

    Surely it is significant that NICRA did not claim that the local government voting franchise was an abuse of human rights? Did the use of the term “civil rights” not make the distinction clear?

  • The Dubliner

    Not clear enough for some, Willow:

    “If, however, you have evidence of human rights violations during the 60s, please post it.” – The Dubliner

    “In the 60’s Human Rights were known as Civil Rights. The terminology has changed but the meaning hasn’t.

    There was a body known as NICRA which amassed no small amount of evidence about the violations of Civil Rights taking place in NI during the 1960’s and earlier. You might try ‘Googling’ them if you wish to learn more.” – LIB2016

    “You might try googling two terms: ‘human rights’ and ‘civil rights.’ I think you will be surprised to discover that they are vastly different classes of rights.” – The Dubliner

  • HubbleBubble

    It was unfair, yes, but it was not an abuse of human rights. Blowing the arms off a 14-year-old girl in response to that situation was an abuse of human rights, however.

    Posted by the Bubliner.

    No one is defending those who “blow the arms of 14 year olds” (is this just for effect or an actual incident?), or saying that this is an abuse of human rights, so why the vitriolic comments. We are trying to have a reasoned debate on the merits of a bill of rights. The people of the North, on both sides, have suffered most in this conflict, so i don’t need lectures from 100miles away on suffering, thank you very much.

  • Rory

    “The right to vote in council elections was conditional on owning a
    property
    within the area governed by the council.”

    Not quite, Dubliner. The right was conditional only upon one being a rate payer. Wherein – most notably in Derry City and Dungannon – lay the problem. A slum landlord might own a row of houses which he rented to families deprived of property. The tenants of these houses might not vote for the reason that they paid only rent but not rates. The landlord, on the other hand, was able to exercise a number of votes as the ratepayer on each and all of his separate properties. Thus we find that the landlord could quite legally vote perhaps ten or twelve times dependant upon the number of his properties on which he paid rates – and there was to my knowledge not any upper limit on this right. His tenants however, numbering perhaps 200 adults, had no vote whatsoever.

    When we take into account that the pattern was that landlords generally (though not exclusively) tended to be Protestant and his tenants again generally, but not exclusively, Catholic we can see the seeds of inevitable future conlict.

    Council house tenants, as ratepayers were also fully enfranchised so perhaps we may understand why Nationalist council were more enthusiastic for a program of local authority housing than Unionist ones.

    Trust me on this, please. My police file records ((a la Joe McCarthy) that I was considered to be “a premature agitator and future potential enemy of the state”.

    Which was quite nice of them really, when I come to think of it.

  • willowfield

    Interestingly, in absolute numbers, more Protestants than Roman Catholics were disenfranchised under the ratepayer franchise.

    Connected to this was probably the fact that working-class RCs were more likely than Protestants to be council tenants, whereas Protestants were over-represented in the private sector rental market.

    In relative terms, of course, RCs were disadvantaged more than Protestants.

  • HubbleBubble

    No one is defending those who “blow the arms of 14 year olds” (is this just for effect or an actual incident?), or saying that this is NOT an abuse of human rights, so why the vitriolic comments

    Oops! Sorry. Comment ammended.

    Should read, …”or saying that this is NOT an abuse of human rights”

  • stato

    Interestingly, in absolute numbers, more Protestants than Roman Catholics were disenfranchised under the ratepayer franchise.

    Posted by willowfield on Jan 11, 2008 @ 03:10 PM

    What are the figures and source for this?

  • willowfield

    I think Wilson (1989) “Ulster: Conflict & Consent”.