Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Would a Uk Bill of Rights (with a "Northern Ireland Ammendment") not suffice?

Yesterday in the House of Lords The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Lord McNally took questions on the proposed UK Bill of Rights, the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998, to stop "slavishly following" "Strasbourg jurisprudence" and the proposed Northern Ireland Bill of Rights:
Lord Dubs: In an earlier answer the Minister referred to a UK Bill of Rights. I wonder whether he would care to say something about the position of Northern Ireland, where for a long time there has been a request that there should be a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights to reflect decisions made in the Good Friday and other agreements.

Lord McNally: The noble Lord is quite right. There is a commitment but, having looked at this matter, we feel that the Good Friday agreement commitment should be honoured separately and not as part of this exercise.
Lord (Alf) Dubbs was a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Northern Ireland Office from 6 May 1997 to 2 Dec 1999; that period coincided with the signing of the Belfast Agreement and also obviously that "commitment" to a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.

The thought which came to my mind reading this was that the way things are going, the UK Bill of Rights may be well in place before the Northern Irish version ever sees the light of day.

I'm most definitely an amateur on the ins and outs of Human Rights legislation but as far as I can make out if that is indeed the case, then we would still be "covered" by that wider UK Bill?

Bearing in mind the actual wording on this in the Belfast Agreement (and I've repeated this so often now whilst correcting *errors* in in its interpretation) states that we need legislation to cover "rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience"; then would some kind of codicil to the UK Bill not make more sense as it would be quicker to draw up, easier to define, and enforce?

Do we really need to wait until Kingdom Comes to get our own separate Bill in other words?

(Thanks to JD for the link)

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