Do Bill of Rights proposals provide any route out of sectarian designations..?

TURGON’S post on the SDLP reminded me of the controversy stoked by Mark Durkan in September when he suggested that a strong Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland could mark the beginning of the end for the Assembly’s sectarian designation system. Now that we’ve seen the Human Rights Commission’s recommendations, does anyone who agrees with Durkan’s argument – that the “ugly scaffolding” of communal designation should come down in the future – see the report as one that could create a context for that to happen? Alliance, which has been most vocal in its opposition to designations, certainly doesn’t. Alliance believes these

[P]roposals further entrench the fallacy that everyone here must be pigeon-holed into two communities. These proposals would further entrench the flawed institutional structures of government, at a time when there is a groundswell of support for significant changes.

That’s slightly ironic, given that the Human Rights Commissioner who signed off the report, Monica McWilliams, was the leader of the Women’s Coalition, another party that refused to designate as ‘nationalist’ or ‘unionist’ (while it existed).

The SDLP itself has said virtually nothing (although Damian O’Loan was pessimistic ahead of the report); surely some in the party must be disappointed that the proposals failed to properly deal with their party leader’s important point? Or did Sinn Fein’s criticism of Durkan’s remarks lead to the issue being quietly brushed under the carpet?


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