Joint Declaration on Human Rights and Equality
1. We are strongly committed to the promotion, protection and the vindication of the human rights of everyone. We believe these guarantees should apply to all who reside in NI.
2. We firmly believe in the centrality of equality to the shared society we are working together to create.
3. We share a profound concern that “Brexit” will result in further regression on equality and rights.
4. We welcome the guarantee in the EU-UK Joint Report from December (paragraph 53) “that no diminution of rights is caused by its departure from the EU”, and wish to see this fully reflected in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol, and related developments.
5. In the context of the current negotiations we therefore reaffirm our common position that:
a. there must be no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality, including as set out in the Good Friday Agreement 1998 and subsequent agreements;
b. there must be an explicit guarantee relating to the European Convention on Human Rights;
c. the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights must be included in the Protocol and retained in UK law or at least as it applies to Northern Ireland;
d. “dedicated mechanisms” must lead to effective enforcement therefore the Protocol must include direct access to the courts by any person with a sufficient interest relating to any alleged breach of relevant guarantees, and there must be recognition of the jurisprudence and jurisdiction of the CJEU;
Annex 1 to the Protocol must include relevant provisions of EU law on social and economic rights, democratic rights, non-discrimination (nationality, sex, race, gender, age, disability, religion, and sexual orientation), and any required measures not explicitly addressed elsewhere in the Protocol.
We call on the EU27 and the UK to amend Article 1 of the draft Protocol to reflect our Declaration.
7. We demand that the current Westminster Government commits to the long-term future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights
8. We urge all political parties and both governments to intensify their efforts to ensure that outstanding rights and equality matters (including the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland) are advanced as a matter of urgency.
Agreed and co-signed by;
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Assembly Leader and Vice-President of Sinn Féin
Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party
Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance party for Northern Ireland
Steven Agnew MLA, Leader of the Green Party NI
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs