Northern Ireland Bill of Rights: bringing rights home

With less than a fortnight to go before the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission gives the Government its long-awaited advice on the scope and substance of a proposed NI Bill of Rights, the BBC's local flagship politics programme is turning its attention to the matter.

This evening's Hearts and Minds programme is set to focus on the Bill of Rights with a studio panel discussion plus a filmed report from L/Derry. Joining Ulster Unionist representative Dermot Nesbitt and SDLP MLA Alban Maginness will be Mark Kelly of WAVE Trauma Centre, a group for victims and survivors of the 'Troubles'

Mark's on the panel, positioned between the green/orange political divide, to represent the Human Rights Consortium, a coalition of over 130 NGOs, community groups and trade unions, which Amnesty helps lead, and which campaigns for a strong Bill of Rights. Mark, who lost both his legs as a result of bomb attack, knows better than most why and how Northern Ireland could benefit from a Bill of Rights which would help address inequalities and rights disputes related to the communal/state conflict, as well as providing a human rights framework safety net for many vulnerable groups in society.

The programme-makers have travelled to Derry to meet Elizabeth Zammitt, a wheelchair user, campaigner for disability rights and another member of the Human Rights Consortium. She is adamant that existing piecemeal equality and disability laws are inadequate to the task of providing a level playing field for her and others in Northern Ireland. With one in five people in NI adjudged to have some form of disability, the highest rate in the UK, this is a particular prblem locally. Elizabeth's story, and those of other ordinary people who could benefit from a strong Bill of Rights, will feature in a new publication to be launched by the Consortium on December 9th, the eve of the NIHRC's advice handover, in Belfast's Odyssey complex.

So, please check out this evening's Hearts and Minds (7.30pm on BBC2, repeated at 11.30pm on BBC1 and will also be available in BBC iPlayer after tonight) and, if I haven't ended up on the cutting room floor and you don't blink, you might even catch a glimpse of me making the case for the Bill.

Let me know what you think and let the debate commence.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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