The latest issue of Irish Political Studies features an article by Dr Robin Whitaker entitled “Debating Rights in the New Northern Ireland”. We have written before (here, here, here, here, here and a guest contribution here) about the difficulties ongoing in the NI Bill of Rights process and this article lends a useful political science perspective to this debate and ongoing commentary. The abstract states:
The 1998 Belfast Agreement provided for a Bill of Rights ‘to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland’. Opinion poll evidence indicates strong approval for such a charter. Diverse civil society groups have offered support, as have all the main parties. Yet, over a decade on, the Bill of Rights remains among the unfinished business of the Agreement. What Northern Ireland’s ‘particular circumstances’ demand in terms of codified rights is a matter of considerable dispute. Political unionism supports a narrow interpretation and a minimalist bill; nationalists argue for an expansive reading, encompassing socio-economic issues. Debate about rights looks at first glance like just another battleground for constitutional conflict. However, an examination of the scope of the debates together with their substance complicates any such reductionist reading, although this complexity tends to recede where the demands of formalised cross-community consent are strongest. 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/.
Guest Contribution: Prof. Christine Bell (TJI) on Bloody Sunday and Human Rights in Northern Ireland
We are delighted to welcome this guest contribution from Prof. Christine Bell, Transitional Justice Institute (TJI), University of Ulster. The TJI offers the LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice at both Magee and Jordanstown campuses, for which applications are still being accepted. For further information, see here. You can find out more about Christine on our Guest Contributors page.
Lord Saville is due to publish his report into the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ the week commencing 22nd March. There are two ways in which a Tribunal of Inquiry can bury rather than reveal the truth. The first, known as ‘doing a Widgery’ is for it to go in fast and dirty, with a biased process whose main aim is to vindicate those accused as quickly as possible. In place of truth and accountability, this approach attempts a narrative of blatant denial. The second way, known as ‘the Italian job’ (but not unfamiliar to those in the Republic of Ireland), is to have a very long and expensive tribunal, produce a very long and detailed report. This approach can deliver a more subtle form of denial as the ‘truth’ becomes lost in a morass of information which produces only the vague conclusion that, as everyone did something wrong no-one did anything too wrong.
Despite the Saville Inquiry taking on a flavour of this second approach, the families of those killed and the injured maintain faith with a process many never entirely believed in, but which was the only process on offer. That faith is now being tested in ways they might never have imagined. Instead of focusing energies on preparing for finally reading the outcome of the Saville Tribunal, they have found themselves in a protracted negotiation over whether and when they will see the report in its full version at all.
Dr. Chris Lamont, Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster will be launching his book International Criminal Justice and the Politics of Compliance on Thursday, 11 March 2010 in University of Ulster (Magee) at 5 p.m.
The launch will take place in Seminar Room ME013b on Magee Campus.
To attend, please RSVP to Emer Carlin at e.carlin[at]ulster.ac.uk.