Weekend work-in on a Bill of Rights

Before heading over to Mark Devenport’s blog to see the draft Bill of Rights, delivered by Chris Sidoti for discussion at the Bill of Rights Forum, it is worth reminding people what the remit given the Forum was in the first place:

“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.”

Now, before anyone panics, there is still most of a weekend of discussions (and presumably a lot of horse trading) before this gets passed on to the Human Rights Commission. Thence, it will pass through various hands (the most brutal of which is likely to be the NIO) before showing up at Stormont. But some of the stuff that’s in there bears little relationship to enactable law. More importantly, much of seems to have flagrantly ignored the remit and/or has gone way beyond matters that are under the control of the devolved institutions.

One slightly bemused delegate told Slugger:

The Unionists are largely opposed as most new rights are outwith the remit, excepted (UK) matters, programmatic, party political issues or uncosted as well as frequently repeating what is in the ECHR and thus the Human Rights Act.

The ‘voluntary’ sector has no concept of compromise and are almost religious in their certainties. Zealotry is one description or silent solidarity. CoSO could be described as the mute sector.

Most of its proposals are worthy but to the left of the left of the Labour Party. The SDLP is in favour of anything and everything except abortion and won’t oppose any SF proposal. DUP were somewhat intermittent in their attendance but have become more rigorous of late.

Another source agreed to an extent there was an air of unreality to some of the proposals coming from the voluntary sectors, but that some of the critical players, like the Unions, had experience of bargaining and was confident that the final draft can be whittled down to something more likely to get enacted.

There has been no voting mechanism agreed, so the Forum is in for an intense weekend of horse trading bit by bit until it’s offering due to be delivered on Monday at 2pm at the Hilton Hotel. A rally called by the Human Rights Consortium for Monday afternoon has been cancelled due to “ongoing workloads and time restrictions in the build up to the end of the Forum’s work”.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

donate to keep slugger lit