We deserve to have Bill of Rights without delay
On November 30, the NIO issued its long-awaited consultation on a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.
In the foreword, Secretary of State Sean Woodward said: "For too long, issues of human rights and equality in Northern Ireland were seen through the prism of conflict as a kind of 'zero sum game' of winners and losers."
He went on to stress that the Government, by contrast, had taken the aspirations of all the people in Northern Ireland to see how they can be given legislative form through a Bill of Rights.
Sean Woodward assures us that human rights and equality are part of a necessary framework which is there to protect and benefit the whole community.
In reading these fine words, the Committee on the Administration of Justice had great hopes for what lay ahead; but at the end of the report we were left wondering whether the foreword was written for a different document.
Only two actual rights are recommended for inclusion - the right to vote/be elected and the right to identify oneself and be accepted as British or Irish or both. Other rights are ruled out (including social and economic rights) or left open for debate.
CAJ remains committed to a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. We challenge the many people who have been left vulnerable by the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland to read the two rights suggested by the NIO and find something that offers them protection.
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If - as we suspect - you can't, we urge you to contact the Secretary of State and tell him so.
Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice