“What has been produced does not even come close to representing that..”

The Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum completed its weekend deliberations and delivered its final report [pdf file] today – there’s a correction to the report too [pdf file]. The BBC report points to both the DUP and the Catholic Church’s boycott of the launch of the report [pdf file] at the Hilton Hotel, linking that boycott to an issue which the Assembly has already debated.. but the UTV report indicates that the DUP’s criticism of the report is based on much wider grounds. Adds Full DUP statement here

DUP Forum delegate Peter Weir said: “We want to see a Bill of Rights which can command that support across the population of Northern Ireland. What has been produced does not even come close to representing that.”

He continued: “The main recommendations are contained in Chapter Four of the report. That chapter contains 41 substantive proposals. None of these proposals were passed unanimously and none of them have cross community support. “There are 216 secondary recommendations. None of them was passed unanimously and a mere seven have cross-community support,” he added.

Over to you, Monica..

, , , ,

  • FYI

    BILL OF RIGHTS FORUM HAS FAILED

    DUP Members of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum, Peter Weir, Simon Hamilton and Nelson McCausland have said that the Bill Of Rights Forum has failed to produce a document which can command support across the community in Northern Ireland. The DUP MLAs were speaking in advance of the draft Bill being handed over to Monica McWilliams today.

    Speaking today Mr. Weir said:

    “Cross community support is the key to moving this issue forward. We want to see a Bill of Rights which can command that support across the population of Northern Ireland. What has been produced does not even come close to representing that. The main recommendations are contained in Chapter 4 of the report. That chapter contains 41 substantive proposals. None of these proposals were passed unanimously and none of them have cross community support. There are 216 secondary recommendations. None of them was passed unanimously and a mere 7 have cross-community support.

    During the discussions it emerged that if we excepted the representatives of the churches and business community, the other civil society representatives and the trade unions were on average 56 times more likely to endorse a position espoused by Nationalists in opposition to Unionists. One of the delegates has completely disowned the report and the representative of the Roman Catholic Church indicated that he would be boycotting today’s hand-over of the document as a point of principle. This document has fallen at the first hurdle of attracting support across the community.”

    Simon Hamilton said:

    “The DUP also opposes the proposal that would see an increase in the age of criminal responsibility and a provision that would mean that people cannot be sent to prison for repeated refusal to pay fines. A Bill of Rights should be about protecting the rights of everyone, not a Criminals Charter. Various proposals which entail so-called positive discrimination are also out of the question. The DUP fought long and hard to get the iniquitous 50-50 rule scrapped and we reject any attempts to introduce discrimination against anyone in our society under the guise of a Bill of Rights.

    The draft Bill of Rights uses the 2006 Victims Order definition of a victim. The DUP rejects that definition on the basis that it places victims and perpetrators on an equal footing. That is entirely unacceptable to us. No one, with any credibility could claim that terrorists intercepted on their way to destroy property or kill people should enjoy equal status with innocent victims such as those murdered at La Mon or Enniskillen. As such we also oppose provisions that require public authorities to legislate in favour of terrorist criminals whose prison terms have ended.”

    Nelson McCausland said:

    “There are individual clauses contained within this document that are repellent to the broad swathe of public opinion. For example, the report contains no fewer than 2 proposals that can be correctly interpreted as opening the door to abortion freely available in Northern Ireland. This is despite the fact that in a recent debate at Stormont, a majority of representatives from across the political spectrum stated their opposition to any liberalising of the abortion laws here. Indeed it will be very interesting to hear how Nationalists/Republicans can square that circle. Their members spoke against a liberalised abortion regime, yet here they stand arguing in favour of the exact opposite. What hypocrisy!

    I have repeatedly argued for a specific clause to guarantee to rights of the unborn child, but the vested interests who are seeking to use this exercise as a means of advancing their own political agenda and circumventing those of us who actually have a mandate from the people for our policies, have repeatedly rebuffed such calls.”

    The Bill of Rights Forum members concluded:

    “We have sought earnestly to engage in this process to deliver a document which everyone can support and ascribe to. Over time it has become increasingly apparent that there are people on the Forum who have no interest in such an approach. They want to use this exercise as a means of advancing their special interests without regard to what the people of Northern Ireland as a whole need or want from a Bill of Rights. The process has therefore been corrupted, and the far-left wish list that has been produced as a consequence is doomed to failure.”

    ENDS

  • Animus

    Considering everyone stayed until the end, it hardly failed the first hurdle. The fact the Forum was set up at all in the manner it was could be considered an achievement, considering the previous unionist opposition. The DUP thanked Chris Sidoti at the final meeting for keeping it together; they participated in many of the debates but now have to maintain a stance that allows them to disengage publicly.

  • FYI

    Participation does not in any way suggest endorsement. They said on the statement that they sought meaningful engagement to achieve a cross-community consensus.

    The vested interests told them to stick such an approach were the Sun don’t shine, by digging their heels in and using the exercise as a Trojan Horse for their pet projects!

  • joeCanuck

    Well I have just finished reading all 245 pages and my flabber is well and truly gasted.
    It reads a bit like the grotesque document produced here in Canada a few years back and which, thankfully, was rejected by a wise population when put to a referendum.

  • Steve

    Ahh joe you know full well the Meech Lake Accord was only rejected because it confered special status on Quebec and even then it was a close thing

  • Gregory

    That was about agreeing to take the British out of North America (Act 1 and Act 2) and it failed miserably, despite Queen Victoria signing something in 1982.

    I spotted a Morris Minor 1000 in Seattle three months ago. I imagine it was a foraging raid of some kind, probably to buy manufactured goods. So it, simply hasn’t worked.

    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/myseattlepix/phototag.asp?photoID=1007882&tag=tacoma

    It’s the same car!

  • Dewi

    Hard work – gave up counting the views expressed below on each bit

    “DUP Against
    Sinn Féin For
    UUP Against
    SDLP For”

    And hardly snappy is it?

    I must agree with DUP…!! Without cross-community support then doomed. Astonished that no attempt was made for a less all-inclusive document but with at least some consensus.

  • George

    Just had a brief look through and all I can say is yikes, that’s the longest and most laborious bill of rights I have ever seen. I thought these things were supposed to be reasonably short and snappy (I’m with you on this Dewi).

    What the hell is the DUP doing saying it’s against the right to life section because it is in favour of capital punishment? You can’t have capital punishment and be in the EU. Make up your minds lads before you cash that next EU peace cheque.

    But I am with them when they say the HRA covers a lot of the issues raised. I assume Northern Ireland has the Human Rights Act like the rest of the UK?

    Any particular reason why the SDLP and SF are in favour of something on top of the HRA?

    Also very interesting that the group added the right to be free from “harmful traditional practices” in the physical integrity section.

    This is completely different from the current situation in the Irish Republic where the courts have held you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person from that tradition and not bring your “western values” to the table.

    From what I can see we have SF, SDLP and most of the sectors “for” and the DUP and UUP “against”.

    If that’s the case, then this is not being looked at from a rights point of view but a sectional community one.

  • George

    The one other thing I tripped over is that this Bill of Rights would give an absolute right to silence.

    This has been curtailed in the Republic and Britain over the last 15 years. The general talk is about more curtailment, not re-introducing it.

  • Mark McGregor

    George,

    Surely if most of the sectors (unions, churches, disability etc) are not agreeing with two parties (Unionism) continually, that demonstrates their disconnect within broader society? The broader groups didn’t abstain did they? Or are those representing workers, women, children, the disabled, minorities etc just lumped in with those bloody fenians?

    The DUP and the Catholic church where the only groups that couldn’t agree to try and move it forward. That is hardly a surprise.

  • joeCanuck

    That is true, Steve, for the Meech Lake Accord.. But I’m referring to the later Charlettetown Accord which also had silly things in it like right to a house and right to a job.

    Your honour, I’d like an affordable house on the Stanmillis Road (downtown Toronto) and I can’t find one. Can you make the government find one for me, oh and a job too so I can pay the rent.

  • The Raven

    “For example, the report contains no fewer than 2 proposals that can be correctly interpreted as opening the door to abortion freely available in Northern Ireland.”

    Excellent! Let’s kick that door open. Let’s allow women the right to chose. Let’s not get fooled by the usual “I have been phoned by many of my constituents complaining about this” shite.

    Let’s join the 21st Century and have some informed debate about this, and actually get to a point where women are allowed to decide what they do with their bodies.

    Sorry, that’s my reactionary tuppence worth…I’m off to have a proper read at it. See u next year.

  • willis

    “We have sought earnestly to engage in this process to deliver a document which everyone can support and ascribe to. Over time it has become increasingly apparent that there are people on the Forum who have no interest in such an approach. They want to use this exercise as a means of advancing their special interests without regard to what the people of Northern Ireland as a whole need or want from a Bill of Rights. The process has therefore been corrupted, and the far-left wish list that has been produced as a consequence is doomed to failure.”

    Name names boys or be accused of bottling it at the last minute.

    An example of the far-left wish list:

    Public authorities shall respect and ensure equality between women and
    men in all areas and take all appropriate measures to eliminate
    discrimination on the basis of gender.

    Monica McWilliams got it right this afternoon when she said (ish) This is useful because now we know where all the big players stand on Human Rights.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Half the story, Willis. The bill goes on to require “temporary special measures” to increase female participation in “policy making”.
    This is plainly undemocratic and the fact that it is backed to the hilt by our ex-WC human rights commissioners is hardly a surprise.
    The surprise is that she’s still bottling it on abortion.

  • Steve

    Whats new about this?

    Unionists negotiate an agreement.

    Unionists run away from agreement with undue haste before ink is dry on agreement

    Point finger at nasty cafflicks

    Explain why you didn’t agree but went along anyways

    Sit back and bask in our selves alone self righteous glow

  • I am so tired of hearing about this supposed “mandate” politicians claim to have from the entire population regarding abortion – they seem to have taken the “if we say it enough times everyone will believe it” approach to representation. They don’t speak for me, they don’t speak for the many openly pro-choice people I know, they don’t speak for the thousands of women who’ve been forced into the position of going to England for terminations and they don’t speak for the many, many people who are perhaps ambivalent about abortion, but who would likely be quite horrified if they understood exactly what women here are going through because of our draconian laws.

    I am not opposed to the concept of the Bill of Rights, but it is pointless for it to promise equality for women (in a legal sense at least) on one hand, yet try to continue to deny one of the most fundamental rights at all – the right to full control of our reproductive health – on the other. To deny this right is to deny women the freedom of self-determination and sends a clear message that the people who run this country do not believe that women are intelligent or competent enough to make their own moral decisions and take responsibility for their actions, therefore the state needs to step in and make the decision for them. Can’t trust us with our own minds, can’t trust us with our own bodies, but seriously expect us to believe you care about equality? Bollocks.

  • willis

    “The bill”

    What bill is that then?

  • The Raven

    I really AM interested to see what the “lay person’s” attitude to abortion would be. And I don’t mean Bernie Smyth, entitled though she is, to her opinion. I mean your average, 30 something, 21st Century, Northern Ireland woman.

    I am not surprised when many of my female mates and colleagues say “I wouldn’t do it”. Neither am I surprised however, when they follow it up with “but I support a woman’s right to decide if it’s right for them”.

    I’m wondering how much longer we get to live in a theocracy on this one. I’ve written before on my own personal circumstances on this – I apologise if I fleetingly refer to it again. But almost 20 years on what I had written about before – and it’s unbelievable that people are still having to see women off on a plane or ferry for a termination.

    When will it end?

    Anyway…there’s lots more in that document. Let’s pass the ball.

  • joeCanuck

    If any resulting legislation is enacted and the document is more than one double sided sheet of paper, it will simply be a lawyers charter to make money.

  • joeCanuck

    Here’s my draft:

    Everyone must be treated equally according to the European Charter of Rights and subject to provisions of the criminal code.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Mark it is all subjective.what are you moving forward into,if it is a traffic jam ,then maybe a different road will get you there quicker.If it is over the edge of a cliff ,then better to apply the brakes.
    I could argue that a bill of rights would still be ineffective without the financial resources being put in to deliver it,and I would point out that there will be conflicting rights.
    the right to decent benefit and pension rights are pie in the sky as long as so called parity legislation is introduced in the six counties to paralell rates across the water.
    The rights of the Garvaghy Road residents to private and family life and the rights of the orangemen to peaceful assembly and cultural rights.
    A bill of rights will be a goose that lays golden eggs for lawyers.
    IN the US nobody pays any attention to the bill of rights or the constitution,they argue on judicial interpretations of them.

  • The Raven

    (waits for “Criminal Code? Criminal Code?? You mean criminal as defined by the brutal dictatorial regime of British Securocrat infringement on oor wee country? Never!”)

    Alternatively

    (waits for “Criminal Code? Criminal Code?? You mean criminal as defined by the foreign papist regime intent on gettings its hands on oor wee country? Never!”)

    Waits….

  • Danny O’Connor

    Joanne
    I can’t think of anything more draconian than murdering a baby ,indeed that is exactly the sort of thing that Draco would have said,death for every offence,except that the baby hasn’t committed any offence.

  • Pro-Human

    “They don’t speak for me, they don’t speak for the many openly pro-choice people I know, they don’t speak for the thousands of women who’ve been forced into the position of going to England for terminations and they don’t speak for the many, many people who are perhaps ambivalent about abortion, but who would likely be quite horrified if they understood exactly what women here are going through because of our draconian laws.” -joanne

    Nice spin, but, as you acknowledged in your second paragraph, you are responsible for the consequences of your own actions. In most applicable instances, you will have made a decision to engage in sexual intercourse without contraception, knowing that there is a risk of unwanted pregnancy (and sexual diseases). Had you not made that decision, you would not more be seeking to displace the responsibility and consequences for your decision/action onto the State. Secondly, abortion is a very poor form of retrospective contraception. The choice you make is to terminate the life of another human being. That human being is not a part of your body. It is comprised of separate DNA, and you are merely its host. While you may wish to devalue that human being, relegating it to no more than a mole growing on your skin that you may be free to remove at will or whim, the reality is substantially otherwise.

    If women are to be granted the sole right to choose either the life or death of the child, then sole rights should bring sole responsibility. That means that women alone should finance the upbringing of the child.

  • wild turkey

    Half the story, Willis. The bill goes on to require “temporary special measures” to increase female participation in “policy making”.

    SRR

    I am not one to usually agree with you but WTF.

    The temporary special measures are already in place, and have been for sometime. Examples?

    Aside from Ms McWilliams as chair of the HRC we have a female CEO of the Equality Commission and, during its first 6 years a female (Dame no less) chairperson. And oh yes, I almost forgot, a member of the equality commission senior managment ‘team’ who in a previous incarnation in the childrens sector allegedly, repeat allegedly because I cannot immediately find and post the relevant newspaper articles was (a) accused of running a scam on a than TEA european funded womens only training project where six of the twelve participants turned out to be male ( the auditor general in a report may have used the word criminal) and (b) allegedly harassed and fired and/or forced the whislte blower in this particular instance to resign. Given that it is often asserted that female managers/policy makers are more sensitive and people centered than their male counterparts, I would have difficulty in crediting such ugly allegations.

    That said ,in a settlement arising from the whistle blowers case to an employment tribunal, the new management of playboard agreed to give the man in question a positive reference and stated something to the effect that new management practices were in place that would prevent a reoccurance of said incident.

    finally, it is a mere coincidence that in mounting a defense against discrimination complaints made by staff in relevant tribunals against the Equality Commission, of which more than a few have been lodged, the Equality Commission has retained the services of a brilliant private legal firm who has amongst its partners an ex collegue of the CEO of the Equality Commission.

    Doubtless, all DfP, HM treasury, and associated procurement guidelines were rigoursly adhered to in the ongoing process of securing these services. Whether or not this legal firm has provided sole private, as opposed to in-house, representation to the Commission in these cases is unclear.

    Nonetheless, as confirmation of impeccable behaviour it is worth noting that the CEO of the Equality Commission was quite rightly recognised in the new years honours list.

    Finally, on a personal note, you mention the WC. should I take this to the Womens Coalition? Yes?

    If so, email me. Do I have a story to tell.

  • aquifer

    It is a pity that we are not getting a bill of rights as per the brief.

    We have a culture of group rights oppressing the individual.

    Territory here is marked out in sectarian terms.

    Due to our divided past our access to democracy needs to be enhanced and deepened.

    Our compliance with legal norms has too often been provisional, and that goes for the DUP faction too.

    The British system avoids spelling out rights to non-violent ways of influencing political change, as they currently enjoy a bistable political system that allows radical changes of direction and then correction. We obviously need more, as street protests, for example, were seen as subversion or reactive repression.

    The right to withdraw consent or protest and to suffer any legal penalties needs to be spelled out. Locals are keener on the heat of protest than to have their case heard in the cold air of a courtroom.

    Which rights do we have to have to enable the political settlement to function well, with the compliance of citizens?

    Which norms must be entrenched in advance to support any peaceful change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland?

    But also: Which political goals have not to be spelled out as rights, to give the political system enough content to function at all?

  • willowfield

    Joanne

    I am not opposed to the concept of the Bill of Rights, but it is pointless for it to promise equality for women (in a legal sense at least) on one hand, yet try to continue to deny one of the most fundamental rights at all – the right to full control of our reproductive health – on the other.

    What about men’s rights? Is it right that a woman can destroy a child without the consent of its father?

  • Muad’Dib

    At the risk of prolonging a debate thats been done a long time ago why should the father have as equal a say in what a woman can and can’t do? Does he carry that child for 9 months with all the changes to mind and body that comes with it. I am not advocating abortion as a form of birth control, however a woman does have the right to decide whats best for her body and what ever exists in it.

    It’s ironic that the DUP and Catholic church finally are in agreement, that women are second class citizens and that men know better.

  • kensei

    At the risk of prolonging a debate thats been done a long time ago why should the father have as equal a say in what a woman can and can’t do? Does he carry that child for 9 months with all the changes to mind and body that comes with it. I am not advocating abortion as a form of birth control, however a woman does have the right to decide whats best for her body and what ever exists in it.

    Yet when the baby arrives, the man is expected to deal with that for a lot longer than 9 months. Also, a baby isn’t cancer or a mole you might cut out if you disagree with it. It’s another human life.

    It’s ironic that the DUP and Catholic church finally are in agreement, that women are second class citizens and that men know better.

    No, this is simply a way to shut off debate. You are a man; you can’t ever understand; you aren’t entitled to an opinion. The issue, whether it is right or wrong, is unimportant. That is, by definition, playing the man and not the ball!

  • willowfield

    LOL at the alternation in the report of the phrase “his or her” with “her or his”!

  • willowfield

    Muad’Dib

    … why should the father have as equal a say in what a woman can and can’t do?

    Because he is as much a parent of the child as the mother? Certainly that is how he will be regarded once the child is born!

    I am not advocating abortion as a form of birth control, however a woman does have the right to decide whats best for her body and what ever exists in it.

    But choosing to abort a child is not merely about “what is best for the woman’s body”!

    It’s ironic that the DUP and Catholic church finally are in agreement, that women are second class citizens and that men know better.

    Neither the DUP nor the RC Church has agreed that women are second-class citizens.

  • willowfield

    It cannot be right that a woman has the automatic and arbitrary “right” to abort a child conceived after consenting intercourse without consulting the child’s father.

  • Granni Trixie

    As the subject of abortion is political suicide, our (male dominated) political parties avoid public discussion which might clarify party policies on the issue.Yet I believe that there would be consensus in NI for a change in the law on abortion on pragmatic grounds given the large numbers who travel to England to obtain one. I do not support ‘a women’s right to chose’ and do not think such an argument would achieve consensus.
    So how can a BOR be expected to deal with the issue of abortion in ‘the special circs of NI’ if political parties have not the will to do so?

  • willowfield

    I’m reading through this Bill of Rights report. It’s quite remarkable.

    Much (probably most) of it is merely reiteration of the Human Rights Act.

    Much of it cannot be considered relevant to the “particular circumstances of Northern Ireland”.

    This group of self-important do-gooders has really overstretched itself.

  • willowfield

    Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, water, energy, fuel and clothing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.

    Can this be for real?

    What is “adequate”? Only a court – after numerous appeals – will be able to decide.

    The right to “continuous improvement of living conditions”?? Even if, say, you lose your job, run up loads of debts, or have children?

    And what happens during a recession, when everyone’s standard of living drops?

    And what will happen as we move towards an energy crisis?

    All workers, including those working in the home or in informal employment, are entitled to rest, leisure, respite and reasonable limitation of working hours, as well as appropriate provision for retirement.

    This was picked up on by the Observer. Will housewives be able to sue their husbands for not doing their fair share of housework?

  • willowfield

    WOMEN’S RIGHT TO LIVE FREE FROM VIOLENCE

    But no such right for men?

  • ulsterfan

    I have not read the report and probably will never do so as there are much more interesting things in life to contemplate.
    Should a Bill of Rights not be considered along with a Charter of Responsibilities.
    Those most vocal for Rights are often the same people who do not accept responsibility for their own political /social actions.
    Give me what I am entitled to no matter the cost to others and in return I will do little or nothing to uphold the integrity of the State and its institutions.
    That seems to be their motto.

  • joeCanuck

    Should a Bill of Rights not be considered along with a Charter of Responsibilities.

    Very valid point, Ulsterfan.
    Don’t think any Bills of Rights do specify those, but when applying for Canadian Citizenship, you have to be able to discuss your unwritten ( non-legislated, i.e.) responsibilities.
    Too many people want to ignore that side of the equation.

  • George

    Mark McGregor,
    Surely if most of the sectors (unions, churches, disability etc) are not agreeing with two parties (Unionism) continually, that demonstrates their disconnect within broader society?

    The certainly could be argued given the evidence but the main difference I see is that the unionist parties believe many issues are already covered by the Human Rights Act so don’t see the need for a Bill of Rights to cover rights that are already protected.

    It seems they have played lip service to it and will sink it the first chance they get.

    As I asked before, is there any particular reason why the SDLP, SF and the named sectors are so strongly in favour of something on top of the HRA?

    The HRA is pretty much the European Convention on Human Rights put on a statutory footing.

    I’m not au fait with the political machinations behind the Bill of Rights but on the face of it, it is not an unreasonable arguement to say it would be easier to start from the HRA as a basis and then fill in any gaps that are particular to NI.

    The DUP and the Catholic church where the only groups that couldn’t agree to try and move it forward. That is hardly a surprise.

    As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, I am hardly surprised that they would refuse to sign up to a Bill of Rights that doesn’t include the rights of “the unborn” in the right to life section. I would be shocked if they didn’t flag this.

  • FYI

    “The DUP and the Catholic church where the only groups that couldn’t agree to try and move it forward. That is hardly a surprise.”

    Wrong. The Ulster Unionists, DUP, RC Church and business sector rep all opposed the document to one degree or another. The DUP and the UUP are singing from exactly the same hymnn sheet on this one and Alliance weren’t a million miles behind them.