Human rights can provide the key to unlocking long-running disputes on flags, parading and dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan will say in a speech to be delivered later today in Belfast, at a conference organised by the British Institute of Human Rights.
Patrick Corrigan will tell representatives of groups from across Northern Ireland that a new human rights framework would enable decisions on politically contentious issues to be taken in a fair and transparent manner:
“If the Haass talks are going to deliver long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes, then they must deliver a new human rights based approach to tackling contentious issues in Northern Ireland.
“At their heart, disputes about parades, flags and dealing with the past are all about conflicting rights: freedom of assembly, freedom from fear, the right to cultural expression, the right to truth and justice.
“In the coming months our politicians have two choices: short term fixes or long term resolution.
“A legal framework, including an ‘equality of treatment’ duty on public authorities, was intended within Northern Ireland's promised Bill of Rights.
“In the words of the Agreement, the Bill was to ‘reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland’ and to provide ‘additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities.’
“In short it was to meant to provide a fairness framework, within which ‘conflict of rights’ issues could be addressed.
“Yet, tragically, while our community has degenerated into deepening distrust and disorder, the government has left recommendations on the Bill of Rights gathering dust in Hillsborough Castle.
“The Haass Talks must see a reinvigoration of the political debate on the Bill of Rights and the local parties must remind the UK government of its responsibility to deliver.
“The potential prize is great. Secure a new fairness framework and we can finally unlock a way to tackle contentious issues which, to date, have prevented us from forging a genuinely shared and peaceful future."