Belfast Telegraph

Gay unionist politician rejects calls for a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland

By Brett Campbell

A gay unionist politician has dismissed calls for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights to be drafted after a new study suggested there was strong cross-community support for one.

A poll for the Human Rights Consortium suggested that 89% of people here believe that human rights should be enshrined in law - with 84% of Protestants and 92% of Catholics backing a Bill.

The consortium study identifies resistance from "within elements of mainstream unionism and the current UK Government" as the reason for a delay to legislation.

However, veteran gay rights campaigner and Belfast councillor Jeff Dudgeon rejected any notion that mainstream political unionism was hindering the advancement of a Bill of Rights.

The Ulster Unionist suggested the Government had fulfilled its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement by requesting and considering advice from the NI Human Rights Commission.

"It was considered, but then it was rejected because it's not necessary," said Mr Dudgeon, whose 1981 victory in the European Court of Human Rights decriminalised homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

"The proposals were foolishly extensive and included social and economic rights, but these issues are fundamentally political matters for the electorate to decide and politicians to implement. Adopting such laws would bring about a situation where judges would be able to trump the democratic will of the people."

Human Rights Consortium director Kevin Hanratty disagreed.

"This provides a clear mandate because it shows that people from across the divide see human rights as something that adds strength and value to their lives," he said.

"There was a clear expectation from the Good Friday Agreement that a specific Bill of Rights for NI would be drafted, but the UK Government have done nothing to take forward that commitment since 2010."

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