NIO proposals on Bill of Rights inadequate - meeting

BALLYMONEY Community Resource Centre, in conjunction with Rural Community Network, held a Bill of Rights Consultation meeting on Tuesday of last week.

The unanimous response from participants was that the NIO proposals were an inadequate response to the concerns of the people of Northern Ireland.

The event was led by Karin Eyben from RCN and Lyn Moffett from BCRC. Nicola Gault from Compass Advocacy Network was guest speaker, and set the context with a discussion about rights in Northern Ireland.

Those in attendance were concerned that the proposals in the NIO consultation paper would create a Bill of Rights which was embedded in dealing with the past and which would leave future generations with that legacy, instead of moving people forward with a more progressive and forward-looking Bill of Rights.

In particular, there was unanimous criticism and disappointment at the limited scope of the proposals.

Under the theme of ‘Bread and the Vote’, participants questioned why the sole focus of the NIO proposals was on civil and political rights, proposals which failed to acknowledge the particular social and economic context of people in Northern Ireland. While understanding that the particular context out of which Northern Ireland has emerged must be dealt with, there was also the sense that the debate on civil and political rights had evolved from the original context set out in the 1998 Agreement.

The Human Rights Commission, in its proposals on a potential Bill of Rights, questions whether the context set out in the Agreement actually limits the remit of any Bill of Rights to civil and political rights.

There was a general acknowledgement at the consultation event that, even if this was the case, the debate on rights had moved on from the context of the Agreement, which had been political in focus.

In the intervening years, people have become less focussed on the right to vote, and more focussed on the social context into which Northern Ireland is now emerging.

In this context there was the real hope that any Bill of Rights would prioritise people’s aspirations, aiming to move future generations beyond the focus on politics and religion which has so dominated our past towards a shared future in which common concerns on health, education, employment and the rights of the most vulnerable in society are protected.

The meeting heard that there was a sense in which, while the case for a Bill of Rights is urgent, the need to get it right and ensure real protections which enable people to live their everyday lives was paramount.

The consultation period on the NIO proposals for a Bill of Rights has been extended until 1st April 2010. For further information, or if you want further information on what a Bill of Rights might mean for you, contact Darren Gribben, Disability Development Officer at Ballymoney Community Resource Centre. Tel: 028 2766 9559 OR Email: [email protected]

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