NIHRC: One bottom up approach that failed to hit the mark…

Owen Polley (aka Chekov) has a very useful (and largely dispassionate) briefing on just how Chris Sidoti’s maximalist approach to his Human Rights Forum report simply hasn’t worked… It’s a far from anomalous example of what happens when you try to mediate between a lot of competing but profoundly unrealistic claims…


  • Pete Baker

    Some obvious flaws in attempting a “bottom up approach” on a NI Human Rights Bill – probably applicable elsewhere.

    The general public here are not necessarily the best consultants to have on legal matters.

    When that community consultation returned to the centre it was always going to encounter the sectional interests which were allowed to impose themselves in that forum.

    And a partisan NI Human Rights Commission had the final say on the advice.

  • Dave

    True, and it’s a good example of how ‘sectarianism’ ironically worked to advantage of the entire community. If the majority nation wasn’t suspicious of the prospect of the minority nation using rights-based legislation to circumvent its political veto over them, then NI could have ended up with socio-economic rights that the hapless English nation would have been left paying for. If they had all come together as one nation and supported it, declaring to essential to their shared future, then it would have been difficult for the British government to remind them that they exceeded their original remit. What society actually needs to further its economic prosperity is citizens with more responsibilities and fewer rights.

  • Pete Baker

    Try again, Dave.

    Without the pejorative spin.

  • Pete Baker

    Do you believe that

    “What society actually needs to further its economic prosperity is citizens with more responsibilities and fewer rights.”

    Or not?

  • Dave

    “Try again, Dave.”

    Bar a couple of typos, I’m quite happy with the posted version. Thanks.

    “Without the pejorative spin.”

    Would you like to write the post for me? Try to keep your control-freakery on your own threads.

    “Or not?”

    What is it about the statement that perplexes you? Over the last four decades, society has conferred rights on its citizens that allow them to transfer their responsibility to provide for their own needs onto the state (i.e. onto those who provide for their own needs and provide via taxation for the needs of those who have transferred responsibility). The more it does this, the more it damages its own economy. If someone has an economic right, then someone else has an economic obligation. This rights-based culture creates an economic burden rather than ameliorates it. For example, Ireland and the UK are the European capitals for unmarried mothers who are dependent on welfare because both states incentivise that transfer of responsibility for the welfare of the child and the parent from the individual onto the state by making it a right to access that welfare. Italy and Spain, by contrast, offer virtually no financial support, placing responsibility onto the individual where it properly, and consequently they have the lowest percentage of unmarried mothers who are dependent on welfare in Europe (1.3% and 1.2% respectively). In Ireland, 60% of government expenditure goes on welfare payment to people who have rights but no responsibility. That is a right-based burden that the economy cannot afford.

  • Dave

    Err, wrong eurostats there: not the percentage of unmarried mothers who are dependent on welfare – the proportions of households headed by an unmarried mother (highest in those countries that incentivise it and lowest in those that don’t).

  • Danny O’Connor

    Sack them,that will pay for a lot of swine flu jabs.

  • Mick Fealty


    We’re all judged on the quality (or otherwise) of our outputs. Don’t you watch the BlogtalkNI videos?

  • Pete Baker


    “What is it about the statement that perplexes you?”


    I agree with it.

    But your lead-in implied that agreement with that statement wasn’t the motivation of others.

    Rather than, you know, believing that “What society actually needs to further its economic prosperity is citizens with more responsibilities and fewer rights.”

  • Brian Walker

    There is one problem about Owen’s view that all that’s required are a few supplementary rights particular to NI. The problem is, the core Human Rights Act is going to be revised, whoever wins the UK election. NI opinion should have a view of that. In responding to the draft NI Bill, not enough attention has been paid to the Westminster context. As I’ve already pointed out,

    both main UK parties are pledged to review the HRA. In their constitutional renewal programme, Labour propose a new British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities by adding a few responsibilities and declaratory rights (not unlike the Monica Bill but fewer), and buttressing anti-terrorism laws. The Conservatives are now pledged to make the new UK Supreme Court superior to the Strasbourg HR Court. Both parties in practice want to rein in judicial discretion over sentencing and anti-terrorism measures like control orders and 28 days detention.

    Shaun Woodward’s consultation paper assumes that Labour’s British Bill is on course – ( not true of course) and asks only for views on supplementary NI rights.

    In view of the ferment over a British Bill, at the very least a consultation shoukd embrace all rights pertaining to NI. What’s the point of starting a consultation about NI supplementary rights only, when some time after the election, they have to start consulting all over again on a new UK Bill? Consider both together now, to make them dovetail smoothly.

    But there is a case for going further, to review all NI rights for a NI Bill to become something close to an NI basic law, reviewing the 1999 Act, incorporating those rights petaining to the criminal law in NI and adding any desired supplementary rights. Why not devise a right to best practice for service delivery (of health, education etc ) throughout the UK, like the English NHS Charter? This might produce a set of useful and popular benchmarks under developing devolution and would accord with a trend towards a quasi-federal constitutional relationship with Westminster that has not yet been sufficiently addressed by Whitehall.

    I agree though with critics who reject an all-singing, all dancing Bill and want a new commissioner. As Monica’s Bill has been rejected the Commission should be overhauled once again.

    A fundamental problem remains. For as long as the parties divide on sectarian lines on this as on much else, it’s hard to see how any real progress can be made, unless the governments particularly the UK’s, force the pace for Westminster legislation. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • Dave

    Pete, I apologise for my brusque response above.

    My view is that socialists cleverly use the language of rights to circumvent the democratic process, particularly by disguising as economic ‘rights’ those responsibilities that properly reside with the individual in order to facilitate that transfer of responsibility onto the state. If they can make certain policies into rights, then those policies are imposed without government discretion or public discussion as to their merit. My other underpinning view is that if socialists actually cared about economic prosperity then they wouldn’t be socialists. Sorry, but I have a very low opinion of socialists, so I don’t attribute any virtuous or socially useful purpose to them.

    That is both anti-democratic and a violation of another’s rights. As Thomas Paine put it “A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties, also. Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee, as well as to possess.” What the socialists don’t see is that so-called economic rights simply transfer an economic burden from one citizen onto another since, as Paine said, there is a duty on others to guarantee the right. If someone is paid more for not contributing to society, then someone less is paid less for contributing since it is his contribution that is confiscated by the state via taxation to reward those who contribute nothing.

    The UK is currently engaged in debating a Green Paper on constitutional reform that places as much emphasis on responsibilities as it does on rights in a proposed Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, that emphasis is to disguise the increase in the proposed economic rights “…a range of subjects that might be covered by such a Bill, including equality, good administration, children’s wellbeing, healthcare, criminal justice, victims’ rights and the environment.” At any rate, it will be the ECJ that expands this area so the UK Green Paper is probably to prepare the ground in readiness for that. In which case, the democratic process is already circumvented.

    My view then is that society should make it harder for the individual to transfer his or her responsibility onto others rather than act to make that dismal practice easier.

  • Pete Baker

    No problem, Dave.

  • Framer

    It wasn’t for want of the maximalists not being told. But then there is no check on the ‘voluntary’ sector’ and particularly none financial with unending monies from Atlantic Philanthropies.

    None the less the utterly dismissive response of the NIO, knocking out 74 of the 78 NIHRC demands is quite breathtaking.

    Their fear of NI rights being used as a springboard into the rest of the UK is palpable and unusually sensible, It makes one think the NIO wrote little of the response

    The Chief Commissioner’s position is now untenable or would be in a democratic or accountable polity. Especially when she tried to suppress honest dissent on her commission.

  • anyonebutmonica

    Never was a dead horse so well flogged as the Bill of Rights. It ain’t gonna happen , get over it. That’s not the surprising thing though, what is amazing is the total and hugely welcome absence of Monica Mc Williams from the airwaves over the past few days. Unless you happen to know that our hugely over-paid (by the British tax payer) but oh-so-independent human rights commissar has been away all week in East Timor working free of charge for the Irish Government. Just like she spent a good part of October in Uganda, working free of charge for the Irish Government. Enough evidence, for those who doubt the absolute reliability of Mr O’ Toole’s website, can be found on, but you will not find any evidence at all on the “register of interests” on (until they read Slugger and panic, that is).

  • Interested


    Got enough info about the Uganda trip but anything more concrete about East Timor-can’t see anything on the dfa site?

  • Very interesting ABM. Sean – I have been ‘outed’ long ago and pretty much use my real name and the ‘Chekov’ pseudonym interchangeably anyway. It’s linked on Facebook, on Open Unionism, on Forth, on Blogtalk NI etc. So no bad form on Mick’s part I can assure you.

  • just wonderin’summer

    anyonebutmonica:surely the most interesting response to the Government’s consultation doc is…the lack of media and other interest,including apparently that of the Chief Ccommisioner/Commissionsers.