Hugo Swire: “This divergence of views was also reflected in the submissions made by political parties…”

For what it’s worth, Northern Ireland Minister of State, Hugo Swire, has published the responses to the consultation on ‘A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland: Next Steps’.  You can find those responses here.

As the ministerial statement says

“A total of approximately 36,492 responses were received. There were 232 substantive responses and approximately 36,260 email and mail/freepost mailshots that were sent as part of campaigns by various groups. Individual mailshot responses have not been published on the NIO website due to the high volume received; however sample versions have been made available.

“There was considerable support from human rights and community groups for a wide-ranging Bill of Rights along the lines of that recommended by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. They expressed concern that the proposals in the consultation document fell well short of this.

“The consultation also demonstrated opposition to a wide-ranging Bill of Rights and support instead for a more limited set of rights that reflected the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. This divergence of views was also reflected in the submissions made by political parties in Northern Ireland.

“The Government will continue to consider how best to address this issue, but continues to urge all sides to work together to help build consensus on the best way to proceed.”

And, as the NI Secretary of State has already said

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…