Northern Ireland offered pale shadow of Bill of Rights
Published today in the Belfast Telegraph:
Colin Harvey is dead right in his assertion that – whatever the outcome of the discussions over the devolution of policing and justice powers – the UK and Irish governments, along with all the local political parties, have a responsibility to deliver an effective Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (see previous blog).
Human rights protections are central to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Indeed, it was that vision of a new society where the rights of all would be not just respected, but would be secured in law, which motivated many people to vote 'Yes' back in 1998.
With a shaky administration at Stormont, the arguments in favour of a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights have strengthened, not weakened, over the intervening years.
Cross-community support for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights was recently recorded at over 80% in an independently conducted opinion poll, while support for the inclusion of economic and social rights protections was even greater.
This polling was carried out subsequent to the publication of the Bill of Rights advice by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission – advice which, if followed, would offer people human rights protections that meet international standards.
Instead, the NIO, with its current proposals, has offered the public a pale shadow of a Bill of Rights, one which would offer next to no discernable improvement in the protections available to ordinary people.
All those committed to upholding the commitments of the Agreement – including local political parties and co-guarantors, the Irish government – are duty-bound to resist this effort of the NIO to short-change the people of Northern Ireland.
And when the Secretary of State – or others – try to tell us that the devolution of policing and justice is the 'final piece of the puzzle', they must be reminded that, 12 years on from the Agreement, people still await delivery of a Bill of Rights worthy of the name.
Belfast Telegraph readers can do this by responding to the NIO consultation through use of the response postcards currently being delivered to every home or via the campaign website www.BillOfRightsNI.org
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