“You can’t rely on a political culture of respect when one doesn’t actually exist”

Unionists should engage in the conversation around the proposal for a Bill of Rights, recognising that it can help protect their interests and human rights, says former Progressive Unionist Party councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston. She was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. “I think human rights themselves are important because they help protect against abuse by those who are more powerful”, says Julie-Anne. A Bill of Rights can also be used as a means of fighting …

Read more…

‘A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland is overdue’

A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland is overdue and would protect the interests and concerns of all the population, insists Colin Harvey, professor of human rights at Queen’s University, Belfast.  He was talking in the latest Forward Together podcast from the Holywell Trust. The Good Friday Agreement provided the expectation that there would be a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland that would safeguard citizens’ rights. And a committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly is, more than 20 years …

Read more…

Why Northern Ireland still needs a Bill of Rights…

Dr Anne Smith and Professor Colin Harvey A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland remains part of the unfinished work of the Belfast Agreement/Good Friday Agreement (the B/GFA). It is still needed, and its absence is felt in the mess that this society is currently in. Reflecting the B/GFA’s mandate, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) launched the Bill of Rights process on 1 March 2000, and submitted its advice on 10 December 2008. The advice includes recommendations which …

Read more…

The Citizenship Rights of the Good Friday Agreement – Real or Imagined?

The Belfast Good Friday Agreement is widely championed as a success. Revered as a model of peace, it’s representative to many as a demonstration of the power of collaboration and compromise. And in a lot of ways, this is all true – “decommissioning”, the North South institutions, and power sharing have all changed the very fabric of Northern Ireland for the better. However, considering the lack of codification, the St. Andrews amendments and the current stalemate at Stormont, did we …

Read more…

The Good Friday Agreement: A Milestone, not the Finish Line

Twenty years on since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and it is now being called into question, but not for the right reasons. The agreement’s fitness for purpose has been challenged in recent weeks as it is perceived as standing in the way of the hard Brexit that some desire. Rather than question the agreement because Northern Ireland is currently without an assembly or because even whilst there was an assembly in place its legislative record was pitiful, …

Read more…

“Any political party that vetoes the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly until further human rights are recognised (or not) is putting the cart before the horse.”

As Newton Emerson pointed out in Saturday’s Irish News, Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, and erstwhile “father of an all singing, all dancing Northern Ireland Human Rights Bill“, Professor Brice Dickson, has had something to say about ‘red lines’ and a ‘rights-based’ society.  From the Irish News article Northern Ireland’s first human rights commissioner, Prof Brice Dickson, has penned a robust article in the Irish Times explaining that the Stormont talks issues Sinn Féin is describing as “rights” are …

Read more…

Sinn Féin’s red lines? : “So you had the Irish language act, there was a thing called the bill of rights and there was another issues.”

Launching the Sinn Féin manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly election a couple of weeks ago, the party’s appointed ‘leader in the North’, Michelle O’Neill, declared that “You’d be very aware that I won’t be drawing any red line issues…” Since then she has allowed the impression to be created that the one ‘red line’ the party does have is the nomination of the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, as First, or deputy First, Minister before Judge Coughlin’s inquiry into the RHI scheme …

Read more…

Should MLAs merely serve the pure technology of the law, or seek to change it?

Following on from yesterday’s, here’s some additional thoughts, in which I argue that we all may be getting a little too comfortable with letting judges frame law instead of our elected “Lawmakers” at Stormont… listen to ‘Is law taking primacy over democracy in NI?’ on audioBoom Most recently there has been the recent Asher’s cake row, of which Fintan O’Toole had this to say a few weeks back… There’s a big difference between outlawing discrimination on the one hand and forcing people …

Read more…

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore calls for delivery on Northern Ireland Bill of Rights

I was pleased to be at the Alliance Party conference dinner in the La Mon hotel last night to hear the guest speech from Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD. He used it to make a strong call for Northern Ireland party leaders to get round a negotiating table to deliver the long-awaited Bill of Rights. As I don’t see it yet published elsewhere, it’s worth reproducing the relevant speech extract at length: Just as history is shared between the communities, so …

Read more…

“The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland consider a Bill of Rights to be important”

Fascinating public attitudes research from Ipsos/MORI, on Northern Ireland public attitudes towards a NI Bill of Rights, was published earlier this week as part of a new report (PDF) from the Human Rights Consortium. It seems to explode the myth that there is no appetite from the Northern Ireland public for a Bill of Rights or that such appetite only comes from ‘one side of the house’. In fact, the headline findings from Ipsos/MORI are that: the vast majority (83% …

Read more…

Bill of Rights Commission is an opportunity to re-ignite rights debate

So Mr Cameron’s Bill of Rights is to be considered by a commission. Another bauble from the election campaign becomes another can to be kicked down that proverbial road. In yesterday’s Higher Education Supplement Colin Harvey and Colm O Ceineide have a great precis on how it came to this: There exists little if any public demand for a new Bill of Rights. The commission has been established primarily to placate critics of the Human Rights Act. The Act already …

Read more…

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 …

Read more…