PETE’S already noted the launch of the consultation paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, in which it becomes quickly apparent that the Government has basically thrown out most of the advice from the NI Human Rights Consortium for straying beyond its remit, lack of regard to the national and international contexts (ie, stuff already in place or about to be), unrealistic expectations, and so on.
The NIHRC says it “will now carefully consider the Government?s proposals before issuing a full response in due course”. The question is; if that response to the Government has as much influence as the advice did, what will the Chief Commissioner do?
If you support the NIHRC’s maximalist approach to rights, then the body has been hopelessly ineffective at getting its work into the Bill. If you don’t, then the NIHRC is guilty of wilfully ignoring what it was asked to do, at considerable public expense.
So either way, is it time for the human rights commissioner to go? UUP deputy leader Danny Kennedy certainly thinks so, writing:
Today’s NIO consultation document is a stunning rejection of the frankly ridiculous proposals made by Monica McWilliams and a majority of the NIHRC commissioners. As the document states ‘over half the rights proposed in the NIHRC’s advice’ fall outside the remit given in the Agreement. In regards to the NIHRC proposals on language rights, the NIO document again states that they ‘cannot be said to reflect particular circumstances in Northern Ireland’. On the matter of children’s rights, the NIO document notes that 7 of the 8 proposals do not ‘meet the criterion set out in the Agreement’.
Monica McWilliams and the NIHRC were consistently warned by the UUP that her proposals fell far outside the remit given by the Agreement. These warnings were ignored and rubbished by the NIHRC. Now the Government has vindicated the stance taken by the UUP.