A Bill of Rights protects unionists too

Professor Colin Harvey is right in believing that Northern Ireland should have its own Bill of Human Rights but he faces a long struggle to get it. In his article, he might have paid more attention to how an NI Bill would relate to the Big Brother versions for the whole UK both main parties are planning. But it’s important to guarantee rights on matters distinctive to NI whether the Assembly survives or not. This is so even though structural discrimination against nationalists and Catholics is now deemed largely to have ended. Unionists should realise that rights are indivisible and entrenched legal protections are needed for an unknown future. A Bill will happen in some form one day but not anytime soon. Top of the list are rights relating to identity, culture and language, sectarianism and segregation, victims and the legacy of the conflict, and criminal justice. There several stages to go before anything much happens.

First, what will be the shape and scope of a British Bill? It depends partly on the result of the general election. Labour and the Conservatives are divided over the scope of anti-terrorism and criminal protection and both are in barely suppressed conflict with the judges. The Conservatives are controversially pledged to replace the Human Rights Act which since 1998 has been the fundamental law for applying UK rights to legislation. If they do curb the courts’ discretions, what is the response for Northern Ireland? I haven’t notice the question being asked, never mind answered.

Second, social and economic rights are weak in both parties’ versions – weaker in the Tories. In neither are they justiciable i.e. you can’t take anyone to court if you think they’ve been broken. But it might be useful to declare rights to public education, health and a safe environment as benchmarks for effective policies.

Without relying on the Assembly to do it, a public debate should be held soon on the NIO’s consultation on their cool response to the NI HR Commission’s draft Bill and take account of the ROI experience. It seems to me essential it should also review how or whether to express separate rights for J&P. Should the right to jury trial be covered separately in an NI Bill? NI might wish to depart from the developing English practice to allow non jury courts in certain terrorist and fraud cases. Both Bills will require Westminster legislation.

The biggest problem as ever is the sectarian party divide. Nationalists tend to argue for as many rights as possible, while the more conservative minded Unionists want as few as possible. Unionists are suspicious of nationalists exploiting rights to find sneaky ways round unionist obstacles in the Assembly. It’s a battle between the “legal state” and the “parliamentary state.” Some unionists are beginning to realise that a rights approach could help unionist minorities. However, the rights agensa has been hampered by the production of two over ambitious reports from sucessive NI HR Commissioners. Politicians of whatever stripe would never have agreed to either’s full verison. The famous recantation by the first HR Commissioner Brice Dickson should have been a reality check for the wilder visionaries. Until realism dawns and a new government settles in at Westminster, an NI Bill of Rights is some way off. Perhaps the good professor will convene a conference to review the matter?

  • Framer

    Brian

    Remind me why NI has to have its own bill of rights?

    I thought we were well-covered in this department already.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Framer, you beat me to it. What’s deficient about the ECHR ?

  • Harry J

    NI has more laws guaranteeing equality than probaly anywhere else in the western world.

    Will the people of NI get the “right” to vote by referendum on any Bill or is this “right” to be denied them by the quangos?

  • Pete Baker

    “But it’s important to guarantee rights on matters distinctive to NI”

    Is it Brian?

    Why?

    Is it because we are special?

    And what specific rights “on matters distinctive to NI” do you have in mind?

  • Brian Walker

    The ECHR is not UK law as I’ve explained before.
    There is a common misconception in Ireland that it is superior to UK law. It is a Convention which UK law regards as the rights benchmark because the UK is a signatory to the Convention. In practice the courts never ignore it. A British Bill would entrench the substance of the ECHR. An NI Bill would certainly follow it. The Human Rights Act of 1998 lays down the HR obligations of UK law but is not entrenched (i.e. it can be repealed)

  • Democrat

    Once the Shinners take over, the right to carry a gun will be top of the list.

  • Brian Walker

    Pete, I listed them in the first par, following the list in the NIO consultation document and made the case throughout. I know you disagree but there we are.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Democrat said

    “6.Once the Shinners take over, the right to carry a gun will be top of the list.”

    Is that not White Anglo Saxon Protestant (wasp) doctrine in North America

  • Frustrated Democrat

    A UK bill will be more than enough; we should only have the same rights as all the other people in the UK, not the drivel put forward by Monica McWilliam’s shower.

  • Mick Fealty

    A few years ago we tried to get a debate going on an all island charter of rights… Maurice Manning address a one day conference and delivered the stunning news that of all the political parties contacted with a draft document on the matter, only two responded: an A4 letter from the Alliance party and full scale response from Sinn Fein. From every one else: nada.

    Now I appreciate that although the charter was mentioned in the Belfast Agreement, there were certain existential problems getting people to engage with a cross border proposition when neither was showing any kind of an appetite for the a bill of rights in their own home zone.

    The problem here is not unionism or nationalism. It is that politicians don’t want lawyers and judges and assorted other commission making decisions instead of them. That’s not a point against the bill of rights, it’s a simple observation.

  • brendan

    We don’t need a Bill of Rights, simple as that. I heard Patricia McKeown talking such nonsense on this issue this morning.

    The right to a house, the right to a job?

    Please

  • VI Lurgan

    FD

    If we should accept UK legislation being part of Great Britain, why is their no extension to the Abortion Act in NI?

  • Mick Fealty

    Brian I think the reference is to the UK Human Rights Act 1998, or the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 in the Republic which give legal effects to the Convention.

  • Stephen Blacker

    The people of Northern Ireland need their own Bill of Rights so that everyone can take ownership of it. Mistrust is rife and a Bill of Rights will help get rid of that mistrust and prove that our country will never go back to any form of misrule.

    In the Irish News today it had a supplement by the NI Human Rights Commission which gave some details of the Bill of Rights and i dont think it is anything to fear.

    I have gone onto the NIO’s Consultation site (link above)and answered the questions it asked. Anyone who is interested in this issue should do the same. Put your voice and rights forward.

  • More legislation is not the answer, the fundamental problem in Northern Ireland, as indicated by the arguements in Stormont, is that ‘rights’ are open to ideological interpetation.

    This is a feature of a divided society where ‘rights’ will simply be picked up and used as weapons to club ideological opponents into submission. The only ‘rights’ that there will be agreement on are those that are either already incorporated into exisitng legislation or are so bland as to be meaningless and do not confer any sectarian advantage.

  • Pete Baker

    Brian

    Yes, you listed the general areas.

    But, I ask again, why specific rights “on matters distinctive to NI”?

    And what specific “rights relating to identity, culture and language, sectarianism and segregation, victims and the legacy of the conflict, and criminal justice” do you have in mind? Or what specific rights do you think the NIO has in mind there?

    The examples you do give on “social and economic rights” are, as you admit, unenforceable. Hardly “rights”, then.

    Clearly we disagree on this, but I am interested in the justification for NI-specific rights and how they would fit within a wider UK frame-work of rights.

    In a devolved policing and justice powers scenario the opportunity for a specific NI Bill of Rights clearly exists.

    But is there an argument for it?

    You did say that “it’s important to guarantee rights on matters distinctive to NI”.

    Why?

  • union mack

    Moderate Unionist

    agree entirely. rights is a difficult issue in this place, and everyone has to have equality, but a separate bill is no more certain to guarantee that equality than the existing frameworks. all it does is yet again set NI apart, when what we are supposed to be striving for is a ‘normal’ society. the political strength on nationalism and the consociational nature of government here means that nobody’s rights are in danger of being subverted in a wholescale fashion as has happened in the past

  • VI Lurgan

    MU

    Slightly defeatist if understandably so.

    There is clear political difference regarding any Bill but what is clear is that vast majority of people consider there are strong legal protections from HRA and ECHR that simply do not exist.

    I for one believe that workers should have right to join a Trade Union and have the right to strike. These rights do not exist at present and what is there have been watered down to be virtually meaningless. Many will disagree with me on a number of grounds but until we have a sensible debate (and not the current sectarian position of not seeking to differ from Westminister legislation, unless it suits us, as on right to choose under Abortion Act), then we won’t have a real politics, just continuing sectarian headcounts.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Brian,

    It is a Convention which UK law regards as the rights benchmark because the UK is a signatory to the Convention. In practice the courts never ignore it.

    So what you’re describing is a technicality.

    A British Bill would entrench the substance of the ECHR. An NI Bill would certainly follow it. The Human Rights Act of 1998 lays down the HR obligations of UK law but is not entrenched (i.e. it can be repealed)

    But isn’t it true that there is no UK law which cannot be repealed ? Obviously the magna carta and all that stuff lays down the fundamental limits but I thought Parliament could do pretty much whatever it liked. It can make and unmake laws as it sees fit.

    Given the technicalities you are describing, wouldn’t you agree that it should be sufficient for the UK merely to create a Bill of Rights encompassing the ECHR ?

    And what chance is there of the NI bill of rights effort making the fundamental changes to the UK constitution that would address the problems you’re identifying with the current setup ? Somewhere close to the square root of fuck all, I’d say.

  • Pete Baker

    To add, within that wider UK frame-work of rights, where would a NI-specific Bill of Rights sit with the newly established UK Supreme Court?

    Should they not be able to rule on matters relating to a subservient jurisdiction?

  • danielmoran

    Pete Baker. Msg 16 The very same unionist parties who don’t favour a bill of rights here are the very same unionist parties, UUP AS WELL AS DUP didn’t favour any rights in NI for catholicsa as recently as the early 1990s, so every protection popssible in this orange police state isw needed to protect catholics from the pure bigotry of the DUP especially and in particular the likes of sammy wilson and gregory campbell

  • GFASupporterButRealist

    This issue has been dealt with at length and in detail and there is no coherent case for an NI B of R. The politically-correct McWilliams majority on the NIHRC messed up big time in making a case and lost big time. There is no groundswell among the public, foreign-paid polls by the NIHRC notwithstanding. If Professor Brice Dickson, McWilliams’s predecessor, on sober second thought, has recanted publicly on the need for a separate Bill and accepted that there is enough law on the statute books already, it undercuts hugely any silly mission creep by the NIHRC PCers who want “employment” and other totally irrelevant issues encapsulated in law as “rights.” Please be so good as to reference the previous threads on this issue and the articles published about them. Ms. McWilliams illustrated how absurdly her priorities are by the publicly checking out how comfortable Colin……was being held at Antrim PSNI station. If she wants to pick a right then at the top of my list is a woman’s-right-to-choose, which Ms. McWilliams’s Women’s Coalition disgracefully chose to fudge in the NI Assembly years ago. Time for Ms. McWilliams to resign and the rest of her Amen Chorus with her. And it is NOT a unionist v. nationalist divide on this. I don’t vote unionist but I don’t have time for a politically correct campaign by Ms. McWilliams and her mates, funded in large part by a foreign foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, which would set courts adjudications above the decisions made by legislatures. People need to vote on these matters through their elected reps. Noone elected Ms. McWilliams or her mates and indeed she was de-elected to the Assembly! This campaign is just politics by other means and an irritating waste of public money and time.

  • Kevsterino

    Pete, one matter distinctive to Northern Ireland would appear to be a right of a group to march in an area against the wishes of the inhabitants of that area.

    This right does not appear to exist in Britain.

  • VI Lurgan,

    “Slightly defeatist if understandably so”

    Perhaps you are right, but I think that a Bill of Rights will serve to feed into sectariansim, will the rights be British or Irish and will be they be Orange or Green and I am not convinced that in practical terms it would actually deliver anything of practical benefit to Northern Ireland but simply result in tiresome esoteric debate and platitudes.

    Put the time, money and effort into integrated education and give more kids the right to be at least free from sectarianism for a few years.

  • iluvni

    14.The people of Northern Ireland need their own Bill of Rights so that everyone can take ownership of it

    What incredible guff!

  • Mick Fealty

    Kev,

    Actually that is a good case in point, but the default under UK law is permissive, as I understand it. It is only existence of the Parades Commission that upholds the positive rights of the residents groups not to have people they don’t want marching down the street.

    There are other reasons to stop people from doing certain things, but I think you have to prove probable breach of the peace…

  • Stephen Blacker

    iluvni,

    Everyone has their own opinion, the GFA thought that a Bill of Rights would let the sceptics understand that equal rights were here to stay. I understand that people think it is over the top but a lot of hurt was inflicted on our population not just because of the constitutional question but the issue of equality too.

  • Second, social and economic rights are weak in both parties’ versions – weaker in the Tories. In neither are they justiciable i.e. you can’t take anyone to court if you think they’ve been broken. But it might be useful to declare rights to public education, health and a safe environment as benchmarks for effective policies.

    There is a world of difference between rights and benchmarks (as Pete has pointed out). If our rights are being treated like benchmarks, the answer is not to create more rights, but to properly enforce the ones we have. If there is to be an NI bill of rights, it should simply state that NI law can be struck down by the courts (even in reserved and excepted matters). If necessary, the EHCR can be cut and pasted into it. We don’t need unenforceable waffle like “everyone has the right to have the environment protected”…

  • s/EHCR/ECHR/

    (works in Skype…)

  • Mick Fealty

    Anyone see Newton Emerson skit on high hedge legislation on Hearts and Minds last night? Very pertinent to this discussion.

  • Framer

    Stephen Blacker

    You say “a lot of hurt was inflicted on our population”. If you are writing about the 50 years of unionist rule until 1971 it would be interesing to hear the hurt quantified and indeed compared to what happened in other countries in that time.

    I note there was an IRA campaign in each decade but only one execution; less than in the Republic. Both countries interned. The concept of fair employment was unheard of elsewhere in the world until the 1960s. Blacks were effectively denied the vote in large swathes of the US until the 1960s reforms. Here there was an old fashioned local government franchise (abandoned in Britain in 1948).

  • Brian Walker doesn’t have an argument that Northern Ireland should have its own BoR other than he likes the sound of it. That mulchy swamp of prose AS USUAL doesn’t contain anything like a rationale or the NIHRC’s remit.

  • Incidentally Brian Walker is BY FAR the worst blogger to grace Slugger with the possible exception of Andrew Charles.

  • Alan

    “the consociational nature of government here means that nobody’s rights are in danger of being subverted in a wholescale fashion as has happened in the past”

    Except that anyone elected to the Assembly as an “Other” has effectivly been denied their right to influence decisions in community voting. It is jaw dropping how such rights can be swept to the side in the worship of the stautus quo.

    Northern Ireland needs a Bill of Rights that it can be proud of – for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, today we hear of another loss of jobs as another american firm “consolidates”. We have the meanest of platitudes from Arlene Foster commiserating with those laid off. Yet we hear nothing of the need for industrial democracy, the importance of workers being asked to partner management in business, and for strengthened protections for workers threatened with redundancy. Economic rights and, specifically, employment rights need to be strengthened in order to protect sacked workers from inadequate government responses, as much as from cowboy business practice.

    Secondly, we will need a local act to build a more equal dialogue between the government and the governed. Modern governance is about maintaining dialogue and advancing change between elections. Increasingly, the public are demanding access to decisionmakers as of right, not as of interest. The Assembly is currently working in a very low gear which is allowing legislators to be lobbyists, but there will come a time when the pace of new legislation will seriously weaken the lobby power of our politicians. We will need mechanisms to force access to departmental decisionmakers for Joe Public AND for politicians. A local bill is needed to define how far we can expect that to go.

    Finally, we need a local Bill in order to protect what is unique to our devolved democracy. We should want to introduce protections that guarantee local decision making against future UK governments that seek to weaken our devolved democracy. For instance, we could have provisions for the NI Assembly to ratify or recognise Human Rights instruments that are rejected by Westminster. We can and should be introducing referenda to enable such protections to change over time.

    As for the British Constitution – well, it’s time we had one fit for a modern inclusive, egalitarian world.

  • Economic rights and, specifically, employment rights need to be strengthened in order to protect sacked workers from inadequate government responses, as much as from cowboy business practice.

    Are those described “rights” dealing with a problem “particuliar” to NI? Of course not, therefore it falls outside the remit ghiven to the Human Rights Industry re the NI BOR

    We will need mechanisms to force access to departmental decisionmakers for Joe Public AND for politicians. A local bill is needed to define how far we can expect that to go.

    I think this is the *focus* of your second point…again is this democracy deficit a problem “particuliar” to NI? Again, no and therefore it falls beyond the remit of the BOR defined in the Belfast Agreement.

    Finally, we need a local Bill in order to protect what is unique to our devolved democracy. We should want to introduce protections that guarantee local decision making against future UK governments that seek to weaken our devolved democracy.

    In case it might have escaped your attention, NI’s “devolved democracy” and the theoretical threat to it from future UK governments is not “unique”; two other parts of the UK, Scotland and wales also face the same theoretical threat. So, again, not a problem “particuliar” to NI, etc etc…you know the rest by now.

    Your post is a good example of why the nonsense served up by the NIHRC had zero chance of ever becoming law- too many generalities not enough focus on those areas particuliar to NI which, if included in the BOR, could have made a real difference to life here- one example is women’s reproductive rights.

  • Brian Walker

    Pete, Comrade and others, Rights by their nature are general propositions against which particular Acts or circumstances are judged. If one society is in some respects different from another, there is a case for prescribing particular rights and protections that relate to those differences. In some respects such as those mentioned, the divided society of Northern Ireland is different so arguably specific rights should be prescribed. An NI Rights Bill would give more power to the Courts to challenge Executive abuses. That is a valuable protection. I fail to see why you reject the very idea so strongly. It is perfectly orthodox, not part of some alien ideology.

    Now we come to entrenchment. ECHCR is a lengthy and roundabout way of getting remedy for rights abuse because UK is a signatory to the Convention. The court is also jammed with East European and other cases and welomes diversion to national courts. This of course happens already via the Human Rights Act. But this Act, though powerful, is one Act among many and can be judged in that way by the courts. A UK Bill of Rights becomes “entrenched” and thus an overriding basic law, giving judges the power to rule other Acts or parts of Acts inoperative. Currently there are fears that a British Bill might actually weaken the terms of the HRA because poltical parties are concerned that the new Supreme Court might develop a power to “strike down” Acts as in the US. Supreme Court judges are more independent than they were when law lords were part of the legislature. There is no doubt that Rights whether through HRA or a new entrenched Bill give the courts more power to challenge executive acts, like detention, confiscatiom of criminal assets, and a whole range of other matters. The UK is one of few States without an entrenched Bill of Rights and whatever the qualms and qualifications, this is likely to happen. There is a good argument for NI which is a separate jursisdiction and may acquire some more law making powers, having its own Bill.

    It’s a mistake to overpoliticise this, as some people are doing (not all). I was going to say that I’m surprised that this excites such vehemence and even abuse, but then again, sad to say, I’m not.

  • Brian Walker

    Finally.. Politicians are pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand, they want their policies to go through. On the other, they want to be seen to support human rights. In the end, governments and the courts will want to rub along together. But there’s no doubt that tensions will arise from time to time, as we’re seeing now over the Terrorism Acts. Is it inconceivable that similar tensions could arise between an NI Executive and the people? If specific rights are prescribed on specifically NI matters they would be benchmarks against which executive abuses or bad law could be judged. I hope the expert supporters of a Bill will make a better case than has been offered so far, to take account of the reasonable points raised above.

  • Framer

    The Belfast courts are clogged with people taking judicial reviews against government decisions made by the NIO or the executive. No lack of access or airing of grievance there. Funding free.

    The European Court of Human Rights is the supreme court of the UK. Its status is entrenched i.e. the UK cannot easily depart from the Council of Europe without a series of decisions and votes in parliament.

    It costs the price of a stamp for anyone to lodge a case.

    NIHRC produced no rights particular to Northern Ireland so even the NIO had to discard 95% of their offering as being outwith their remit.

    The Human Rights Act gives the power to judge other laws to be in breach of the European Convention.

    What more can you want here?

    Judge Monica and Justice Colin deciding on the Executive’s economic priorities using non-political criteria?

    Beware of the Nomenklatura talking rights and transparency. That is the last thing they believe in. They would not even permit a minority report.

  • Alan

    Yes there is a dispute over the meaning of particular to Northern Ireland

    In this context, such rights would be particular to NI as they would represent rights deemed essential to Northern Ireland by people in Northern Ireland, although not available elsewhere. It is up to people in Northern Ireland to to define the particularity of such rights. Polling (despite attempts to muddy the waters by the ill-intentioned) consistently supports a broader interpretation.

    Those who wax angrily against the BOR present a specious and minimalist argument that the BOR should only cover issues that arise out of “the Troubles”. In effect their argument is bent on weakening and obscuring the efficacy of rights as a whole, and depends upon the amorphous complexity of current Human Rights instruments in order to argue for the small state.

    A particular need in Northern Ireland is for a Bill of Rights that cuts throught the complexity and establishes a succinct and coherant statement of a society in which we wish to live.

  • Brian Walker

    ..sorry I’m going on too long but I’m trying to watch Tony Blair at the same time..

    A right to good government for example might appeal to people in NI. Look at the whole state of the Executive and the 11 plus transfer deadlock for example, where you can argue that government is doing little or nothing to sort it out. Might it not be a good thing to mount a legal challenge under a specific NI Bill? The clause might be worded to require a power sharing Executive to function as intended. No doubt the parties would fight it,and the courts mightn’t like it either. But a UK government might be tempted to back it. But just think what a powerful remedy the very existence of such a right could be for the frustrated citizen. I’d like to hear this argued out by legal experts.

  • Framer

    Alan – it is too late to find particular rights for NI; NIHRC and the community and voluntary sector on the Forum were not able to do the job, being blinded by prejudice and self-interest and despite lashings of money.

    It’s over.

    Brian – 11+ etc. that’s just politics by courts.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Framer,

    I was expressing a view based on the “Troubles” here. Going back further in time is always interesting, our history must not be forgotten so we learn from any mistakes.

    You talk about comparing events and structures in other countries around the world and that “fair employment was unheard of elsewhere in the world.” Of course you are correct but since the sixties the pace of change around the world has been tremendous.

    Unfortunately, even with all the changes we still have a way to go. You mentioned that “Blacks were effectively denied the vote in large swathes of the US until the 1960s reforms” yet even with these reforms discrimination is still practiced in parts of the USA.

    I think that a Bill of Rights will be another piece of the the jigsaw for completing the foundations of our Peace Process. It will also shout out to everyone that we have changed as a society and no one will be treated any differently to anyone else.

  • Alan,

    Yes there is a dispute over the meaning of particular to Northern Ireland

    There’s no dispute in the wording of the Belfast Agreement:

    …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.

    That is to say “Particular” relating to the “circumstances” of NI not what the people of NI or the HR Industry define as the ‘particularity of such rights”. Rights which cover areas not already covered by other UK or EU legislation and deal with those problems “particuliar” to NI- poverty or employment abuses are, to take two examples, not circumstances “particuliar” to NI

    “Those who wax angrily against the BOR present a specious and minimalist argument that the BOR should only cover issues that arise out of “the Troubles”

    No, issues arising from the Troubles (e.g the right to live free from paramilitary harassment) do help to define the “particular circumstances’ of NI but not solely. Read my last reply to you- e.g. women’s reproductive rights is not an issue arising out of the Troubles and is also an issue cowardly left alone by the NIHRC.

    A particular need in Northern Ireland is for a Bill of Rights that cuts throught the complexity and establishes a succinct and coherant statement of a society in which we wish to live.

    That sounds very nice but, unfortunately that’s not what was asked for in the Belfast Agreement and that is the reason the not very succinct and not very coherent proposal of the NIHRC was, albeit politely, laughed out of court by Woodward.

  • Brian Walker

    Framer,
    Although a basic law by definition, the HRA is not entrenched, (i.e. it can be repealed like any other Act) nor is the Strasbourg court “the Supreme Court of the UK” That’s partly why both main UK parties are talking about a British Bill of Rights.

    The Conservatives have pledged to replace the HRA with a British Bill of Rights which would have enhanced status but weaker powers to challenge the executive. The aim seems to be to weaken judicial discretion. There’s a lot of doubt about whether this is viable. I discussed this in

    http://www.sluggerotoole.com/index.php/wstminster-human-rights-battle-affects-northern-ireland

    While it’ll take some time to produce such a Bill, it will be a one-off opportunity to entrench ie. make a basic law on UK rights. It therefore makes it doubly important to decide objectively whether to have an NI Bill. I’ve conceded that the previous draft NI Bills damaged the case but that concession strengthens the case not weakens it. I don’t refer to framer here but aggressive and dismissive comment about even such a benign topic as rights, shows just what’s wrong about attitudes in NI. I’m glad I had so much head to head practice dealing with it on the ground when I was younger. But it must put many thoughtful people off.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I have read the document they had in the Irish News. If this is the template they are working to then forget it. I do not want this.

    They say that a Bill of Rights “is crucial for peace and stability”. No it is not. As a republican I cannot see how any amounts of legislation can paper over the inherent instability of imposed partition.

    What do they mean by “values the role of women in public and political life and their involvement in advancing peace and security”? Do they mean that men are not to be valued? Why not just replace “women” with “everyone”? Why the discrimination?

    When they talk of “Upholds the existing rights and protections of individuals and groups” do they include the ability of the OO to offend and abuse people and neighbourhoods?

    What do they mean by “Women and girls should have gender-sensitive and appropriate healthcare and information” Why not just say abortion on demand and be done with it?

    Civil Partnership – I think the mean gay marriage which is unfortunately already here – but “couple” this with the right to found a family and soon we will be exposing youngsters to abuse when paedos realise that they can marry each other and get access to children compliments of the state. I thought we had learned the lesson here.

    A cursory glance tells me that this is unacceptable.

  • Damian O’Loan

    If unionism rests its argument against a BoR on duplication, as it has done, it faces a risky future. As do we all.

    As Brian rightly points out, the Tory government plans to repeal the HRA. Even the Labour Party want to modify its conception of rights. So the average NI ctizen’s access to the ECHR will be removed so as to be highly ineffective once more, if it remains at all. This means more legal fees, not less.

    UKIP and a significant percentage of Conservatives want to leave the EU altogether. NI will not have a real say in this decision, though it would be dramatically affected by it.

    Within ten years, this argument against may have fallen aside. Would a NI BoR then be agreed to?

    Why is a good idea? Because under the current globalised economy, as events over the last few days have shown, NI can’t compete. Can’t compete with US state investment to bring jobs back, as promised by Obama during his election campaign, nor with cheaper wages in regions like Eastern Europe, Turkey, Bangladesh, Vietnam. If you aren’t prepared to work for those kinds of wages, then you have to offer something back.

    That something should be the guarantee that the manufacturers are guaranteed basic good conditions, that women are not disadvantaged by being parents more than men, that the society is stable because each of its citizens are looked after. You then have to convince people that is worth paying a little extra for – not easy, but what are your choices?

    To depend on the UK for rights protection is contrary to the agreements and a short-sighted mistake.

  • Civil Partnership – I think the mean gay marriage which is unfortunately already here – but “couple” this with the right to found a family and soon we will be exposing youngsters to abuse when paedos realise that they can marry each other and get access to children compliments of the state. I thought we had learned the lesson here.

    Just as well the “paedos” haven’t worked out they can have sex and produce their own children, courtesy of nobody.

    What a pathetic, hate-filled rant that was.

  • Brian Walker

    Damian, Just to be clear, the ECHR is not an EU institution. It relates the 47 countries of the wider Council of Europe of 47 countries which includes Turkey, former Yugoslav states,Russia and other parts of the former USSR – hence the logjam.

  • Damian O’Loan

    I know Brian, I did try to separate the two somewhat but I don’t think that Britain’s standing in regard to the ECHR is secure given the other motivations expressed. The desire to move away from the HRA is a desire to move to a lesser framework of human rights whose distance from the ECHR and would facilitate its abandonment.

    If I might note again, it is highly disappointing that the Catholic Church has chosen not to support the BoR, nor has it modified its position since the delivery of the encyclical below, with which its representatives are frequently in direct conflict:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html

  • granni trixie

    I dont know if it matters (but from posts above it does seem to) but the current BOR media campaign by NIHRC and the Human Rights Consortium is being paid for by an American, Chuck Feeney (Atlantic Philanthropes)…who picked a bad week in which to concentrate their efforts. Ho hum…

  • FitzjamesHorse

    In with the usual junk mail I got some nonsense about a Bill of Rights. I probably should have read it before chucking it in bin (not the green bin)

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    the UK may well be a signatory to the ECHR but did not allow it’s citizens leave to take personal appeals there until 1966, nor did the legal community accept ECHR jurisprudence pre-factortame case in the late 1980’s. In Scotland they held out even longer. The ECHR is still not paramount in UK law as the 1998 Human Rights act only served to give “further effect” to the rights enshrined in it. Laws passed by Westminster are still paramount.

    As Brian has alluded to earlier some forward thinkers have been speaking about making the new supreme court a mover and shaker in terms of steering human rights type legislation. Currently the situation is that a judge cannot strike down a Westminster law that is contrary to “convention rights” and the UK and others have many derogations especially over anti-terrorism.

    I’m not sure what the point of an NI bill of rights in the current state of affairs would be. Since it would still could not challenge laws passed by Westmnster. Originally the UK was to have a bill of rights but Blair in his wisdom rushed in the HRA 1998. The Tory manifesto declares that it will abolish the HRA and go with a bill of rights. In my opinion a US style supreme court paramount to Westminster is the way to go.

  • Framer

    Brain

    But Strasbourg is superior to the UK Supreme Court as you can head there as soon as you lose in London.

    And explain to me what an entrenched piece of legislation is in the UK. I am not aware of an example.

  • Brian Walker

    Prionsa,
    You put your finger on a really important point. I raised in the original post. How would an NI Bill affect Westminster legislation? A Bill which Westminster must pass presumably would protect Westminster legislation. So far the new Supreme Court is not moving towards strike down powers but is evolving in an independent direction in a typically British fashion.

    Framer, in a UK without a codified constitution, entrenchment is regarded as applying to constitutional measures. Recent examples are the 1998 NI Act and the corresponding Acts for Scotland and Wales devolution and the Constituional Reform Act which set up the Supreme Court. Now you’ll immediately pick out the NI Act and question whether it can be entrenched. But the Act is entrenched and would be repealed only in extremis and with the consent of the Irish, the co-guarantors under international Treaty. International treaties of constituional effect are another facet of entrenchment which applies to the European Communities Act. It too could be repealed in extremis. Entrenchment here therefore is not as rock hard as say the US Constitution which expresses fundamental change in constitutional amendments.

    I expect you know all this and just want me to go through the hoops for your amusement. There. I’ve obliged.

  • Framer

    Brian

    It seems entrenchment has nothing to do with inability to repeal just that the external complications are such that repeal is unlikely – as I said about the European Convention on Human Rights.

    What about the supremacy question?