Yesterday Liam highlighted the key human rights issues raised by the Labour Party Manifesto. Today we take a quick look at that offered by the Conservative Party. First, at a superficial level, it is worth noting that the phrase “human rights” appears in two sections of the manifesto. It appears once in a section on domestic political reform, under the title ‘Change Politics | Restore Our Civil Liberties’, but only as part of the title of the Human Rights Act (which the Conservative Party pledge to replace with a British Bill of Rights – more on that in a moment). It appears four times in the foreign policy section, titled ‘Promote Our National Interest | A Liberal Conservative Foreign Policy’. So does this mean four times as much human rights in foreign than in domestic policy? Not quite. Read more…
We are expecting the launch of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats’ manifestos for the General Election on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week respectively. Human Rights in Ireland will offer some early analysis of each one on the days of their launch to assess just what this election may mean for human rights in Britain and in Ireland.
UPDATE (08.49am): Adam Wagner over at the recently launched UK Human Rights Blog has written this morning that this bill of rights (for the UK, not Northern Ireland) is to be a key election issue. He also draws attention to a piece in the Guardian today critiquing the Conservative Party’s plans for human rights. Unless there’s a major policy announcement between now and then, I will hold my tongue on this until the manifesto announcement at the start of next week.
1 Crown Office Row has launched a new blog, the UK Human Rights Blog. It will be authored by a junior, a silk and an academic member of chambers. They describe the new venture as follows:
And they’re off! The least surprising news story of the day so far has been that Gordon Brown has made the trip to Buckingham Palace to request that the Queen dissolve Parliament, effective next Tuesday (this is to allow the Digital Economy Bill to be rushed through Parliament in the next six days). A General Election will take place on Thursday 6 May.
There are two key human rights issues that may be affected by the outcome of this election – one of which will be of great concern to human rights advocates in Ireland. These are:
Today at 4:30pm the Rio Cinema in Hackney, East London will show the classic Monty Python satire, The Life of Brian. Released in 1979, The Life of Brian is enjoying its thirtieth Easter. The well from which a thousand popular culture references can be drawn, the film was banned in Ireland for eight years (from its release in 1979 until 1987). An old family anecdote has my uncle sneaking a copy of it into the house without my grandmother’s knowledge – the same grandmother asked to borrow the DVD last year to see, at long last, what all the fuss was about. Twenty-three years after the lifting of the ban on Brian it might now fall foul of the Defamation Act 2009 on grounds of criminal blasphemy (see previous posts here and here). Section 36 of the Act makes it an offence to intentionally publish or utter “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”. It’s worth wondering if the Life of Brian still has the ability to cause outrage in modern Ireland, but if it did, then a cinema screening it might be caught by the section. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions may enjoy his day off: my quick search of internet listings found no Irish cinema showing the film today. Anyone that may be screening the movie can take comfort that it is a defence to “prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates”. After thirty years, the Pythons’ reasonableness is surely beyond doubt. All of us here at HRinI hope you enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend – whatever you’re celebrating.
On St Patrick’s Day, while we were engaging in national celebrations, the European Commission was addressing the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). For those who are not familiar with the history of this issue, the European Convention is the basis of human rights protection across Europe and is under the custodianship of the Council of Europe (an organisation of 47 Member States including all EU Member States). The EU has long harboured an ambition to join the Convention. However, in 1994, a decision of the European Court of Justice (Opinion 2/94) declared that the EU could not join the Convention without an explicit treaty basis allowing it to do so. In the absence of such a basis in the EC and EU Treaties, accession would have to wait. Read more…
Tomorrow is the closing date for submissions to the Northern Ireland Office in response to their consultation on the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. We have previously discussed this matter at much length (see Colin Harvey here and myself here). However, the Irish Times is today reporting that the Democratic Unionist Party has called for the plans to be abandoned. Against the backdrop of the upcoming British General election, this is another blow to those who believe that a Bill of Rights is necessary to fully embed the constitutional change wrought by the Good Friday Agreement. Further information on the campaign for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland can be found at http://www.borini.info/.
Yesterday, Fine Gael published their 101 page document, ‘New Politics’, setting out what they consider to be “the most ambitious programme for political reform since the 1930s’. For the non-constitutional scholars amongst our readership, 1937 saw the adoption of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland that remains the only between-World Wars European constitution to still be in force today. As such, Fine Gael’s claims for their New Politics is a grand one. We have previewed the publication of this document (here, here, here, here and here) and will offer some thoughts over the next few days. The document clearly merits detailed engagement and as such, I won’t attempt a full analysis here. Rather, after the jump I will ask seven questions of New Fine Gael and their New Politics. Read more…
This afternoon, the Fine Gael National Conference will debate the party leadership’s proposals for political and constitutional reform in Ireland. The reforms, which we discussed previously (here, here and here) would include:
- the abolition of the Seanad;
- a new “list” system for selecting 15 TDs;
- new constitutional recognition given to four Dáil committees;
- reduction of the President’s term of office from seven years to five;
- the introduction of a public petition mechanism for the Dáil.
Expect to see lots on this in the press in the coming days and some more substantive analysis here at HRinI once we have the full Fine Gael proposals to hand.
The latest issue of the German Law Journal contains what may be the first academic analysis of the Bundesverfassungsgericht decision in the data retention case – previously discussed here. The article, entitled ‘Pitting Karlsruhe Against Luxembourg? German Data Protection and the Contested Implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive’ by Christian DeSimone offers a historical overview of data protection in Germany and a discussion of the adoption of the Data Retention Directive and its implementation in Germany. There is also some brief discussion of the BVerfG decision. As no English translation of the decision is available to date, it is not possible to comment on the usefulness of the analysis of the BVerfG decision. However, the article contains a beautifully succinct comment on the reasons for the adoption of the EU law as a Directive rather than a Framework Decision: “The politics of legislative process trumped legal orthodoxy”. The article is available for free and the full citation is  11(3) German Law Journal 291.