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Northern Ireland: Time for Westminster action on Bill of Rights following Assembly report

‘Now is the time for the Secretary of State to start the Westminster legislative process to enact a Bill of Rights’ - Patrick Corrigan

Amnesty International has called on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State to bring forward legislation to enact a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights following the publication of a key report by a committee of the devolved Assembly.

The report shows strong support for a Bill of Rights among respondents to a public consultation as well as among the general public according to polling commissioned by the Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights.

However, the committee reported that it had been unable to carry out its role fully due to a failure by the Executive Office to appoint a five-person Panel of Experts, as directed by the New Decade, New Approach agreement of January 2020.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“A Bill of Rights can be a framework for good government, a safety net for the most vulnerable and a legal mechanism to challenge decisions which fail to uphold human rights.

“This report shows overwhelming public support for a strong Bill of Rights.

“Now is the time for the Secretary of State to start the Westminster legislative process to enact a Bill of Rights, as envisaged by the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

“The lack of cross-party consensus on this - as on previous human rights issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion access - should come as no surprise. That should be no obstacle to human rights legislation at Westminster, just as we saw in those examples.

“The failure of the Executive Office to appoint the panel of experts to assist the work of the committee was a breach of the New Decade, New Approach deal, undermined the work of the Committee and raised disturbing concerns about a public appointments process.”

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