Bill of Rights Forum in trouble…

More pre breaking news… Though it’s not clear that talks have yet concluded, the Bill of Rights Forum could be heading for collapse… Slugger hears from one Alliance source that “there is no hint of compromise. The Unions are still stuck in the 70s, and the Unionists in 60s.” It seems too that there is no sign of the Catholic Church’s representative, who seems to have judged there are more constructive things to be doing on a Friday afternoon… Another source suggested that there was too much grandstanding and not enough politicking… We await the final outcome…

  • BonarLaw

    “the Bill of Rights Forum could be heading for collapse”

    Make it so numer one!

  • DC

    Glad to see Alliance steering a unified course through such difficulties with persuasive ways forward. All those around that table seem hopelessly lost at sea, unable to charter a way together to an agreed reconfiguration of Northern Ireland.

    No doubt Unionism is the biggest player at fault here, they are utterly hopeless in this field of work, but the Catholic Church too is another contender. They just cant seem to comprehend:

    equality; language; cultural expression and identity; victims’ rights; social and economic rights; criminal justice and implementation.

    Our lot were never going to be able to particularise that so soon into an Assembly renowned for nothing but blockage. Perhaps from the word go it was finished already.

    Real politick indeed. The politics of difference remains in place it would seem. Give them another 10 years perhaps and most certainly without any pay rises.

  • eranu

    the uselessness of these types of people is the biggest problem NI faces. i saw one of their bill board ads the other day. cant remember the exact number of kids, but it went something like “X amount of children live in poverty…. thats why we need a bill of rights” ignoring the fact that poverty is measured as having a PS2 and not a PS3 these days. it seems that they think that having a few words on a page will actually change something in the real world around them.
    if the ad had said “X kids live in poverty. thats why we need to create jobs then train parents up to work in those jobs so they can earn enough money to look after their kids”. that would make sense.
    there seems to be so many useless organisations in NI that dont actually produce anything other than documents. they seem to think that improving NI consists of putting nice sounding phrases on paper and thats it, just sit back and do nothing. somehow, as if by magic, life will get better.
    hopefully some time in the near future all these organisations will be scrapped and the money used for something useful like business generation.
    at the minute i cant figure out if these organisations are staffed by genuinely inadequate people, you know the sort who cant hammer a nail in, or tie their own laces. but they can waffle on for ages about the history of the early years of stem trains. or if they are staffed by smart people that know they can get paid bucket loads just for knocking out the odd document or two.

  • USA

    Feck the Catholic church, the Unionists, the Unions and any other gobshite who messes up this opportunity to build bridges and solid foundations for your society.

  • wild turkey


    thank you for articulating the experience of many who have worked in, or at least lived on the periphery, of quangoland.

    Are the staff dumb? As a general rule not at all. Are the staff well meaning? Probably.

    But check out the, uh, leadership figures. In my experience if most of the commissioners, board members, whatever, of quangos were directors of private sector companies they would have bucked out by shareholders toute de suite.

    But in quangoland we have stakeholders not shareholders.

    Mick, ‘The Unions are still stuck in the 70s, and the Unionists in 60s’ uh, which century?

    ‘Feck the Catholic church, the Unionists, the Unions and any other gobshite ‘
    Dead on! There are serious issues to be resolved and these self regarding self annoited assholes only get in the way.

  • BonarLaw

    “this opportunity to build bridges and solid foundations for your society.”

    Or to legislate for PC society where self reliance and self respect are replaced by the hand-out culture asociated with the “rights” industrys’ world view.

    Back to basics- do we need a Bill of Rights given the dead weight of legislation already dulling society. I’ve always suspected we don’t and it seems by default we are to be spared one. Result.

  • Mark McGregor

    Knowing some of those who worked on the various working groups and having seen the potential for real change to the lives of the most marginalised in society – the poor, the disabled and minority groups – it is a real shame but not a surprise that they will fall victim, yet again, to politicking mainly from Unionism, partly from SF and most particularly from the DUP who wasted everyone’s time by taking part with the sole intention of sinking the thing. Though, I said to the people I knew involved that the whole thing was a sham and the DUP would collapse it – what a shame to be right.

  • steve48

    Having sat on two of the working groups I have to say that Mark is entirely wrong. Failure if it comes will be as a result of a lawyer led aspirational approach to rights which undermines democratic accountability. On both of the working groups I sat on unionists engaged fully in the process.

  • Alan

    Time, perhaps, to publish and be damned.

    Let us all know what was the actual state of play, what level of consent has actually been reached and who is in opposition.

    The single most important thing about the Forum is the engagement by all corners of our society in the debate. It would be good to read the arguments for and against and make up our own minds.

    If, as I suspect, the numbers remain the same as the first few meetings when 6 effectively vetoed the agreement of 22, then we need to know that.

    The adverts, by the way, are not the Forum’s, but the Human Rights Consortium’s. I have to agree that they are overstated and therefore quite unhelpful.

  • Northern Boy

    It would be a terrible shame if the Bill of Rights process were to fail. It is the best shot we have of getting a comprehensive Bill, bearing in mind the abject and inexcusable failure of the NIHRC, over 10 years, to fulfil its role in drafting a Bill.

    Issues such as delineating rights to healthcare, articulating victims’ rights and entrenching strong equality provisions are too important to ignore. They can help our society become better.

    I have read the Criminal Justice and Victims Working Group report (“CJV”), and it is a very disappointing piece of work, made all the more so by its arrogant pretension to cover everything. A Bill of Rights should set out general, succinct principles, to demonstrate the basic rules a society sets out for itself. Those principles should then be set out in greater detail in legislation covering specific issues. For example, a BoR provision re healthcare could read: “All persons shall be entitled to the highest available level of healthcare”. Legislation could then, as the outworking of the democratic porcess, deal with the detail of contributory payments, if any; resource allocation, availability, etc.

    The draft CJV report is an attempt to be somewhere in between these two carefully balanced elements of a coherent whole. It is drafted very poorly and has no logic or sense whatsoever. It seems to be the result of an amateurish attempt to cut and paste together every UN Declaration and Resolution, national constitution that could be found (except for the Irish one, curiously), without any regard for the balance that such fundamental aspects of society require.

    I am unreservedly committed to the universality and indivisibility of human rights, and based on years of first-hand experience, I am convinced that peace can only be obtained through justice, built on a rights-based culture. However, this weak amateurish text, drafted by someone with neither experience nor wit, is no help to anyone.

    Northern Boy

  • latcheeco

    Dead on the money, Eranu! Every word. The North is an economic culture where politics and grant funded community work are actully two of the leading industries.

  • Animus

    Eranu doesn’t even the have education to know the difference between amount and number, so make of that what you will. His cynicism is not what NI needs, and is particularly unhelpful.

    I agree the billboards are a bit overstated, but how much text can one get into a billboard? And at least, unlike some unionists, they are drawing attention to the issues.

    I don’t think it’s great of Alliance to be blabbing about the process in a public forum, given that it seems to be having enough problems of its own. In some ways, the Forum is a new way of working, with politicians, churches and community sector people, so clashes are bound to happen. From what I’ve seen, there are problems, but there is also some good work being done, even if some of the texts not great at the moment.

    It would just be too unlike people here to have a little faith wouldn’t it? In particular the DUP.

  • BonarLaw

    Could anyone enlighten me how “the poor, the disabled and minority groups ” would benefit from a Bill of Rights? I’m talking about real, tangible benefits.

    I’d also like to know why those pushing a BoR feel the current dead weight of rights legislation is insufficient for the “the poor, the disabled and minority groups “.

  • Alan

    “Could anyone enlighten me how “the poor, the disabled and minority groups “ would benefit from a Bill of Rights? I’m talking about real, tangible benefits. ”

    By setting standards for the progressive development of services for people who are discriminated against and keeping these under review.

    To make that more concrete, it could mean, for instance, planning to ensure that all people with a learning disability who want to live in the community are provided with supported accomodation to allow them to do that. This would be much better than locking them in hospital wards because they are not deemed to be a priority.

    Equally, it could actually encourage government to act on pay differentials between men and women, rather than just publish the statistics.

    Equally, it could force government to act on differentials between the educational attainment levels of deaf and hearing children.

    Equally, it could force Government, once powers are transfered, to raise the age of criminal culpability above the age of 10

    Equally, it could encourage government to develop industrial democracy by making employers negotiate with employees and their Unions.

    I say “could” here, because these areas are all up for discussion at the BOR Forum. The idea is that we should agree the general shape of a future we all want to see – with liberty and social justice for all – or just having the right to vote and ignoring the rights of disabled people, women, children etc. Those are the choices.

    A BOR need not be about handing power to Judges ( what an undemocratic and demeaning comment on our politics that would be ), but establishing the process by which a future Assembly could measure its progress towards an agreed future.

    My vision for the future would include all of the issues that I have raised, but, also equally, I recognise that other people would object to them.

  • fair_deal

    “By setting standards for the progressive development of services for people who are discriminated against and keeping these under review. ”

    It’s called section 75 and Equality Impact assessments. There are also proposals for a Single Equality Act to bring together the range of existing regulation.

    “Equally, it could force Government””A BOR need not be about handing power to Judges”

    I wonder why people think it is about undermining the democratic will?
    The two comments also seem to be contradictory. How exactly is government going to be ‘forced’ without handing over powers to judges? How do you ‘force’ the change without an ‘agent’ for the force?