Owen Paterson: “It is difficult for the Government to make further progress on a Bill of Rights in the absence of this consensus”

I linked in passing last night to the speech by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State at the British Irish Parliamentary Association meeting in the Isle of Man.  And as Mark Hennessy notes in the Irish Times, he had some important points to make on the troubled NI Bill of Rights.  From Owen Paterson’s speech

The Government remains committed to maintaining human rights protections in Northern Ireland

The previous Government’s consultation on Next Steps on a Bill of Rights revealed deep divisions and a lack of consensus on a way forward

There was similar division in a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly earlier this year (with members voting by 46 votes to 42 against a motion calling for a robust, enforceable Bill of Rights)   

It is difficult for the Government to make further progress on a Bill of Rights in the absence of this consensus

A legislative consent motion must be passed by the Assembly in circumstances where the Government intends to bring forward any legislation at Westminster – like a Bill of Rights – which will have a significant impact on devolved policy

Many members of the Assembly clearly have reservations about a Bill of Rights and it appears unlikely that any motion could be successfully passed

Building consensus is therefore crucial and I will ask supporters of a Bill of Rights to focus their energies on engaging with those members who are sceptical. [added emphasis]

Rather than, for example, conducting PR campaigns funded by US-based charities backing their preferred version of the Bill…

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The Bill of Rights is an interesting one.
    Almost impossible Id say to draw up one when community regards themselves as subjects of one nation while the other regards themselves as citizens of another.
    Britain has a pattern of discomfort with (say European rights) legislation NOT because of it is opposed to human rights (indeed quite the reverse) but because of the nature of citizenship itself and the nature of a Bill of Rights embedded in a Constitution.
    There are some 150 “community groups” allegedly involved in the “Human Rights Consortium” who are agonised about this.
    As part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Human Rights Commission were set up to advise on a Bill of Rights…..which they have been doing for 12 years. And they contrive to accuse parties to the Agreement (notably the unionists and British) of backsliding.
    Hmmm……doesnt seem to me that the Human Rights “industry” was that concerned for a very long period of time. But the possibility that they might be wound up is concentrating their minds wonderfully.

    As a general rule, Im against any tinkering with the GFA. Voluntary Coalitions, changes to Police recruitment, change to AV voting. I dont want it rolled back, unravelled or even moved forward. Leave it as it is.
    If that means the Human Rights industry talking to each other for ever and no Bill of Rights, I can live with it.

  • Cynic

    So can I ….it has become a self-serving industry devoid of real purpose beyond the employment of the political class and their support staff, and disconnected from people’s real interests and aspirations

  • joeCanuck

    As we are, for now, all citizens of the same federation, if there is to be a BOR there should only be one, for the whole UK.

  • Munsterview


    On the lead up to 98 we had shops sailing around the coasts of Ireland and provisioned at sea carrying mainly Protestant United Irishmen to keep them out of reach of Habes Corpus writs, so frustrating English Rights that went back to the Magna Carter.

    Come forward to Gerry McG’s case that has been highlighted here on a regular basis or the lack of an enquiry into Pat Finnucane’s assassination by the British State, it’s agents and servants. Since when did British ‘Mainland’ rights ever apply to Ireland ?

    Same Old Story; the Unionists cannot sit around a table and agree as at the end of the day they are treated one way by the State and some of their members are the rights abusing parties. The Nationalists are still treated another more repressive way by the State and that is the way Unionists want to keep it !

    Most Unionist it seems still cannot accept that Nationalists / Republicans have equal rights as citizens. while holding their beliefs. I know a few good English Republicans who advocate Republicanism in England for the English. They are totally free of course to pursue their beliefs, Different sides of the Irish sea, different laws and that will remain the story until the last troops march up the last gangway to end last Irish occupation as they have in so many other ex-Colonial countries!

  • joeCanuck

    Most Unionist it seems still cannot accept that Nationalists / Republicans have equal rights as citizens


    I would dispute your use of the word “most”.

    Does Ireland have a BOR?

  • HeinzGuderian

    Muster………..in the name of pity mate……….when will you,and people like you come to terms with the fact,that the vast majority of people here are,and wish to remain,British ??

    Bombing and blasting,murdering and maiming,threatening and terrorism didn’t work !! The lure of the Celtic Tigger,didn’t work !! I feel the constant whinge,will not work !!

    Best just to face reality,instead of the constant head in the sand,and the never ending………A Notion Once Again !! 😉

  • With respect to Owen Paterson and Munsterview (who clearly hasn’t read Monica’s Opus) lack of consensus isn’t the major problem with the proposed BOR; it’s the complete lack of realism and operability.

    Monica and the HR Oligarchy were trying to deliver a set of “rights” which no state has the power to guarantee. She was also trying to remove the power over determining other (possibly) achievable rights from the legislature and hand them over to the unelected judiciary. Finally, she took the coward’s route when dealing with those rights (eg women’s reproductive rights) which people are denied specifically in Northern Ireland and ignored them completely.

    The guarantee of human rights (despite the implication of Munsterview’s rant) are not a Unionist v Nationalist issue, it should be universal. But in order for the cause of human rights to be advanced here, tangible and achievable targets *specific to Northern Ireland* (don’t rely on Monica’s selective interpretation of the Belfast Agreement, check the actual wording for yourself) must be identified. Once Monica and Co deliver that instead of continuing to pimp the nonsense they came up all over the world (at the UK taxpayers’ expense), then it will have my full support.

  • Munsterview

    correct, I have not read it or seen it, only heard of it !.

    “……..The guarantee of human rights (despite the implication of Munsterview’s rant) are not a Unionist v Nationalist issue, it should be universal…..”

    Yes indeed it should be, as relevant in Bristol as Belfast, no argument there!

    “………But in order for the cause of human rights to be advanced here, tangible and achievable targets *specific to Northern Ireland* (don’t rely on Monica’s selective interpretation of the Belfast Agreement, check the actual wording for yourself) must be identified…….”

    Yes, sounds very good in principle but in practice……?

    Human and Civil Rights should have a universal application for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, Male and Female, Adult and child, Straight and Gay alike.

    By all means identify areas that could and should be addressed in Northern Ireland but in doing so and bringing specifically tailored laws to a local situation, a situation could arise where the feet are cut to fit the shoes !

    If rights need to be asserted or protected in a specific legal area, then it should be done for the universal benefit of the assertion of that right per se. It is then up to all parties and individuals to up their game to that new standard.

    There has been enough bloody kid gloves, Mickey Mousing and tinkering around the edges in the North. Robust unapologetic action is what is called for.

    The problem is what is in the undergrowth Low Intensity War, how it was fought by all parties and the consequences of it. The State have a primary responsibility here, they have coherent records and all their cards on the table, face up is the starting point that everything else can flow from.

    The State that embargoed records for a hundred years around the time of Dr Kelly’s Death is hardly to do that any time soon.

  • “correct, I have not read it or seen it, only heard of it !.”

    Well you really should read it to get a grasp of what the main problem is with its implementation. I can still remember the feelingof utter disbelief reading it the day it was released; by the end, if I’d turned the page and found Monica guaranteeing me next the right to the No.9 jersey for Utd that Saturday I would no longer have been surprised.

    “Yes, sounds very good in principle but in practice……?

    But that’s the crux of human rights’ legislation isn’t it?
    The BOR should be only dealing with those areas specific to NI because ultimately (let’s be honest here) the EU deals with all other areas of univerally recognised human rights.
    If the HR Industry had kept to their remit then they would have been adding to those universally agreed rights by dealing with topics few other areas in the developed world have problems with (eg women’s reproductive rights, right to freedom from sectarian harassment and yes right to the “truth” about the past). Instead they decided to go an empire-building exercise and in the process lost what couldhave been a great opportunity to actually improve the HR sitaution here.

  • Cynic

    Never let a lawyer into a position of responsibility outside the courts.

  • joeCanuck

    I can still remember the feeling of utter disbelief reading it the day it was released

    Exactly how I felt when a new BOR was proposed here to change Canada’s Charter of Rights about 10 years ago. The similarities were amazing. If fact, Monica’s gang might easily have based their nonsense on that attempt. The wise people of Canada laughed it out of court when the referendum on it was held.

  • Granni Trixie

    Disappointing that they dropped the proposal of the previous Commission to include integrated education as a right – now that is something related to the particular circs of NI.

  • joeCanuck

    But Granni,

    Integrated education is available. Just send your kids to the State schools. I don’t think there are many “Protestant” schools.

  • Munsterview

    “……when will you,and people like you come to terms with the fact,that the vast majority of people here are,and wish to remain,British ??……”

    Cant speak for people like me. I can for my people however, been at it since the mid 1500’s and have not given up…….. slow learners I guess !

    Up there two weeks back, plenty uniforms and cars to be seen in Donegall when I took a trip over to check out how the young crowd were handling things. ( Pretty good incidently, they are going to win ) Thats life : sometimes only a few kerbstones, sometimes a street, sometimes a constituency, sometimes a whole province as when we took back Munster !

    Oh Yeah, in case I forget, we did the same with the provinces of Connacht and Leinster, even put in our Parliament in the Duke of Leinster House ( or whatever he was, these things do not really matter down here any more), we also managed all but four counties, two were hi-jacked and appended to the four, but what the heck, as all six are about to come home one of these days, let bygones be bygones, we can afford to be magnamaous.

    But back to the Border : guess what, not a uniform to be seen of any sort in my Sunday spin through British Occupied Ireland until I came South again, plenty of them on the roads there. Used to be so tiresome in the wee North with all these checks. Where did they go. My goodness the times I travelled up to that area to rebuild bridges and open roads and now not a peeler in sight. Not that I am complaining

    Do not worry, I will not forget our brief slugger association, I have a lot of Polish Friends in Cracow, realism is everything now in historical display. I will email them and suggest you in full uniform and tank for driving around the camp perimeter. Polish wages are not great, but the tips are good.

    Coming as you do from a handout culture you should have no trouble adjusting ! Enjoy !

  • John K Lund

    I am under a disciplinary procedure by the UUP for stating the truth on the Nolan Show 23rd September 2010. The complaint is made anonymously and has gone through a hearing in secret by the Examining Committee an anonymous body so far with obviously no minutes of their proceedings issued to the respondent. My requests for minutes of relevant meetings, and full discovery of documents have been studiously ignored. There appears to be no attention paid to Natural Justice the requirement for this basic human right was removed in the new rule changes.
    This Star Chamber gathering seems to have no rules to ensure Natural Justice what so ever. The Conservative Party Disciplinary Tribunal require the appointment of two Queens Council, in private practice to act as Chairman and Vice Chairman, of their committee .
    Rule 81 precludes that “Conduct that which consists solely of expressing diagreement with the policies of the Party shall not constitute conduct which brings or is likely to bring the party into disrepute. The Committee will determine in its absolute discretion whether a complaint which has been referred is in substance based on policy disputes within the Party”.
    I doubt that anonymous complaints can justify this hearing of a kangaroo type court. I find it totally illogical that totally irresposible acts by the UUP Parliamentary and Assembly teams are ignored by the leadership whilst mere minions like myself are subjected to this so called draconian farce called Justice. If any fellow blogger requires more information on this particular subject contact me at johnklund@btinternet.com or telephone me on 028 92619449.

  • joeCanuck

    I find it quite disgusting that any organization would pay any attention to anonymous complaints. If the complainers don’t have the courage to stand up they should be ignored.

  • Granni Trixie

    Joe: first of all in NI there are not enough integrated schools for the numbers who want to go there – infrastructure determines capacity to a large extent. Secondly, the culture in state schools in NI is not the product of diversity, children have to fit into a Protestant/British culture .
    To go out of your way to leave the right to integrated education as a feature peculiar to NI is perverse.
    However, many of us are interesteed in developments following PR public “suppoort” for shared schooling – learning from the integrated education movement is a resource for this. Maybe one of the pluses from a dire economic situation is that sense will prevail and shared ed. will become the default position.

  • Framer

    The children don’t have to fit into a “Protestant/British culture’ in state schools. In fact they are hardly Protestant at all in my experience.

    Most Catholics are comfortable with British culture anyway and many Catholic parents already choose to send their children to state schools as they are.

    The problem of integrated schools as can be seen from this fear of British acculturation is that they have no culture at all and as many were previously state schools the unintended consequence is a diminution of one culture.

  • joeCanuck

    But Granni,

    Would it not be easier to change the curriculum in State schools to include, for example, History with emphasis on Irish English Scottish and Welsh relationships, Irish Literature, inclusive symbols, availability of Irish as well as UK Sports etc. Many or most courses could be elective. Religion could be taught separately with comparative studies for main world religions and major christian sects.
    Parents could then choose whichever school they preferred within larger catchment areas,

  • joeCanuck

    many Catholic parents already choose to send their children to state schools as they are

    I know that for a fact. I helped persuade my parents to remove my younger siblings from Catholic Grammar schools to Limavady Grammar 40 years ago and made the necessary arrangements. My brothers and sister loved it, not least that they could be educated together, being triplets. And no 1 hour bus trips at the start and end of the day.

  • Granni Trixie

    Joe – what you say seems sensible and I would be great if it worked. There is much anecdotal evidence suggesting as I say that if your are a Catholic you have to fit in. Not to say that greater education and the will to accept difference woulnt bring about about difference in state sector. Maybe that time is now.

    Triplets – now that’s impressive.