Posts Tagged ‘Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland’

Whitaker on Politics and the NI Bill of Rights

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

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…

Why the UK General Election Matters for Human Rights in Ireland

As Cian noted earlier today, the UK election has begin in earnest. This election, of course, has potentially very significant ramifications for the future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Bill of Rights process in Northern Ireland. In particular, the Conservative Party-currently enjoying what seems like a healthy lead in the polls-has proposed the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 upon election and its possible replacement with a ‘British’ Bill of Rights. In this post I want to just briefly expand on the concerns about this proposal noted by Cian in that earlier post. Read more…

Further updates on the BOR process: the NIAC report

March 30, 2010 1 comment

Following on from Cian’s earlier blog on the response of the DUP to the NIO’s Consultation Paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, it is worth noting that 24 March saw the Westminster Northern Ireland Affairs Committee release ‘A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland: An Interim Statement‘.

Given the political make-up of that Committee, many of those in favour of a NIBOR regarded the NIAC’s decision to carry out such an inquiry as an effort on the part of political actors unhappy with the NIHRC’s advice to have ‘another bite at the cherry’. Arguably, the limited and poor quality consultation document produced by the NIO in response to the NIHRC’s advice rendered this unnecessary. (For a discussion of some of the criticisms made of the NIO document, see here)

Whatever its reasons, the Committee itself does not make an explicit recommendation either in favour or against a NIBOR. Rather it states: Read more…

Guest Contribution: Harvey on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland

March 1, 2010 1 comment

Today marks what was to be the closing date for the NIO Consultation on the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The NIO has extended the closing date to March 31 2010, but we nonetheless take this opportunity to bring you this guest contribution from Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University Belfast and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. You can find out more about Professor Harvey on our Guest Contributors page. Please note that the post is the text of a speech delivered at King’s College London last Monday 22 February 2010 and is being contributed by Professor Harvey in a personal capacity.

Achieving Our Bill of Rights?


Good evening everyone. I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk to you about the Bill of Rights process in Northern Ireland, and discuss possible next steps. I would like to thank Professor Aileen McColgan and the School of Law at King’s for making this event possible, and Maggie Beirne for chairing the session. The Bill of Rights process has reached a significant moment. The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is currently consulting on its response to the Human Rights Commission’s final advice. This evening I would like (in a personal capacity only) to sketch the context for the debate, say something about the process, note substantive aspects of the Commission’s advice, and then reflect on where we go from here. Read more…

NIHRC Rejects NIO Consultation on a Bill of Rights

February 18, 2010 3 comments

On 17 Feburary, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission published its response to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) consultation paper on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

According to the NIHRC website:

NIHRC Chief Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams stated:

“Legislation of such importance is deserving of greater consideration and analysis than appears to have been invested in the NIO consultation paper on a Bill of Rights. As a national human rights institution, the Commission does not accept this as a genuine effort to increase human rights protections in Northern Ireland.”

The NIO consultation paper is an inadequate response to what should be in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The Commission believes the consultation:
• Demonstrates a lack of understanding of the purpose and functions of a Bill of Rights
• Fails to take appropriate account of international human rights standards
• Appears to be suggesting the lowering of existing human rights standards in Northern Ireland
• Fails to satisfy the minimum common law consultation requirements, and
• Misrepresents the advice given by the Commission.

The Commission’s own December 2008 advice on what should be contained in a BOR for Northern Ireland was previously blogged about by Cian Murphy here.

The Commission’s strongly phrased response is highly critical of the NIO consultation document, which has been the subject of strong criticism by civil society groups and coalitions, such as the Human Rights Consortium, which have carried out extensive advocacy campaigns seeking to bring about a wide-ranging and effective Bill of Rights for NI.

In its response, the Commisison states that it is ‘extremely disappointed at both the tone and content of the NIO consultation paper’ and highlighted that it ‘had expected by now to be in a position to provide Government with detailed feedback on how it ought to take forward the proposals for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland’. Instead, according to the Commission,

The Commission has concluded that it is not possible for a national human rights institution to accept the NIO consultation paper as a genuine effort to increase human rights protections in Northern Ireland.

It will be crucial to see how the NIO, the British and Irish governments and the NI political parties react at this point. Will the NIO respond to the Commission’s criticism or will the BOR simply be allowed fade away by an indifferent and/or resistant political establishment(s)? The answer to these questions should become clearer over the coming weeks.

A full copy of the NIHRC’s response to the consultation document is available here.