Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland

A GUEST POST BY AVILA KILMURRAYOn Human Rights Day 2008, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission presented the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, with their well considered advice on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The Bill had been promised under the terms of the Belfast - Good Friday Agreement, and was seen by many as an important foundation stone for a new shared society. As one of those that took this view, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland invested both time and resources in facilitating community-based groups across the region to engage with the process of consultation around rights issues. It was successful, working in a positive fashion with a large number of groups that would not have automatically identified with Human Rights due to their political perspective. However over the period 2000-2009 it was becoming increasingly clear that an inclusive Bill of Rights had the potential to springboard us out of the zero sum game politics that we are all too accustomed to - at least within local communities that was the view, it clearly did not permeate the elected political stratosphere. Last November, the government (through the Northern Ireland Office) issued a Consultation Paper that was marked by a minimalist and dismissive approach to the potential Bill of Rights. Gone was anything that might have suggested that they believed that 'politics was the art of imagination'. The 'particular circumstances of Northern Ireland' that had originally inspired the need for a Northern Ireland Bill was clearly being limited to the direct impact of the violent conflict. As to the causes of that conflict - many of which related to social and economic rights - they had somehow disappeared into the mists of time. The NIO Consultation ends on March 1st - it is time to tell the NIO that they must think again. The Consultation Document needs to be marked 'Can do MUCH better'.

Baroness Goudie's speech in the House of Lords in the debate to celebrate International Women's day

Scottish Equalities Commission launches major new Inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland