A Bill of Rights: more questions than answers..?

CHRIS Thornton takes a look at the long-running debate over the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. It’s been trundling along for a decade, but may be coming to a head, as the BoR Forum prepares to report its conclusions. While most would agree that a BoR is a good thing, there’s been relatively little debate about what it might entail – will some have more rights than others, for example, how will they be exercised, what consideration is being given to reciprocal responsibilities and what happens when rights conflict?

  • Brilliant. This was online yesterday for anyone who wants to read it, you’ve not produced any fresh slant on it whatsoever and there’s a BoR topic which actually has some detail below.

  • interested

    Chekov
    The cynic in me would say that Gonzo simply wants to bump up hits for the Tele website….

    Conflict of interest perhaps???

  • joeCanuck

    “what happens when rights conflict?”

    Kinda misses the point. That is a main reason to have a BoR. To codify which rights take precedence when there is conflict between, for example, the “rights” of the state (the bulk of the people) and the “rights” of the individual.

  • BonarLaw

    joeCanuck

    why the need to codify in a common law jurisdiction?

  • steve

    Because codification might keep your government from violating your rights, doesn’t seem to be working in the states right now but there is always hope

  • BonarLaw

    steve

    but in a common law jurisdiction the judges protect the citizen from the state. Codification is always a political process and IMHO too rigid to adapt quickly to changed circumstances.

  • joeCanuck

    Do you think that a BoR would somehow negate common law, Bonarlaw?
    Common law does have a lot of advantages.

  • steve

    Bonarlaw

    What protection did the judges afford those interned by the whim of any and all policemen

    How did the judges protect nationalisitic citizens from unreasonable search and seizure?

    How did judges protect the citizens from police withholding information from dependants?

    Codification atleast allows you to challenge authorities based on a written code that is not subject to whim or fancy

  • steve

    oops
    dependants = defendants

  • Abertawe

    I was fascintated to read that Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser is from Ireland: Harvard Professor, Samantha Powers.

    She is bound to have a significant influence on his policy regarding Irish politics if he becomes president.

  • BonarLaw

    steve

    “nationalistic”?

    Your rant against the judges is unwarranted- I could direct you to any number of cases which were thrown out because of police acting in excess of their powers. It happened during the “Troubles”, it happens now.

    Judicial precedent is not whim or fancy.

    In any event, I think you will find any codified set of rights will have a national security/ interest get out clause.

    joeCannuck

    judges in our system have been applying human rights in some form or another since 1215. Those rights evolved and were closely scrutinised each time an issue arose and tweaked as necessary. Codification will set in stone rights which can only evolve with the ok of the legislature.

  • aquifer

    I fear the BOR has become a repository for materialist aspirations when we need rights that build people’s involvement with democratic processes.

  • willowfield

    STEVE

    Codification atleast allows you to challenge authorities based on a written code that is not subject to whim or fancy

    You don’t need “codification” to challenge authorities: people challenge authorities all the time in the UK without “codification”!

    AQUIFER

    “… we need rights that build people’s involvement with democratic processes.

    Such as?

  • steve

    Willowfield/ Bonarlaw

    I am sure the Birmingham 6 appreciated all the human rights they were extended

  • joeCanuck

    Bit of a straw man there Steve.
    How would a BoR stop a group of (or individual) crooked cops from trying to, and sometimes succeeding in, stitching someone up?

  • willowfield

    I’m not sure what your point is?

    How is that relevant to a NI bill of rights? How would a NI bill of rights have prevented that particular miscarriage of justice?

    Indeed, how can any human rights instrument prevent miscarriages of justice that go undetected?

    I think measures such as the creation of the Police Ombudsman are more relevant to cases such as that.

  • steve

    they werent crooked cops they were acting on orders of her majesty’s imperial government

  • willowfield

    I’m afraid that unsubstantiated allegation doesn’t answer the questions, nor explain the point you were trying to make.

  • steve

    Because if there was a codified bill of rights then her majesty’s imperial government could be taken to task for denying its citzens basic human rights

    Now it extends or doesnt extend its citizens any rights it might or might not feel like… kind of like George Bush

  • willowfield

    Because if there was a codified bill of rights then her majesty’s imperial government could be taken to task for denying its citzens basic human rights

    Nonsense: the absence of a “codified bill of rights” does not mean that the government cannot be “taken to task for denying its citizens basic human rights”. The Government today can be so taken to task under the HRA 1998 and, prior to that, citizens could bring a case against the UK at the European Court of HR.

    Now it extends or doesnt extend its citizens any rights it might or might not feel like… kind of like George Bush

    It doesn’t: the Government is subject to the ECHR.

  • eranu

    “While most would agree that a BoR is a good thing”

    i think thats because the thinking doesnt go much beyond “bill of rights…..sounds like something that would protect ordinary people from having bad things done to them. that must be good”. you might say most would agree its a good thing, but they are only saying that because it sounds like it would be a good thing, not because they can think of something that needs to go in it!

    the people who want a bill of rights in NI are just looking for a way to force people/government to give them something they wouldnt otherwise be able to get. “you have to do X because i have a right to it” or “you cant do Y because it breaches my rights”
    material gain, as mentioned above and self interest. add to that the people working in the rights industry that are trying to create a job for themselves by talking up all this cobblers.
    its all such a tedious waste of time. if only people could do something productive with their time!

  • joeCanuck

    “they werent crooked cops they were acting on orders of her majesty’s imperial government”

    So now you’re arguing that “I was only following orders” has become a valid defence?