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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