Irish Republican News · January 9, 2008
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Church of Ireland attacks Bill of Rights
Church of Ireland attacks Bill of Rights

The Protestant Church of Ireland has criticised plans to draft a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland.

In an unusual editorial, the church’s newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette, claimed the arguments in favour of the Bill of Rights suffered from “an astounding lack of clarity” and suggested plans for new legislation on the issue were part of a united Ireland agenda.

It added: “There are those in the Stormont establishment who want a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, as opposed to the UK as a whole, because they want Northern Ireland to relate more closely to the Republic of Ireland than to the rest of the UK.”

The international human rights expert who chairs the North’s Bill of Rights Forum rejected the church’s criticism of the project. Chris Sidoti argued that a Bill would help cement the peace process.

“Northern Ireland is a society rising out of conflict and suffering,” he said. “As the 1998 [Good Friday] Agreement itself recognised, the new shared future of Northern Ireland must be one built on human rights. A Bill of Rights is the best sure means of achieving that.”

A second argument in favour was based on the need to address the legacy of conflict. He argued therefore that while people in the North of Ireland can be protected under the general British law, they could also benefit from their own Bill of Rights that addresses the legacy of their recent history.

Mr Sidoti also said that a Bill of Rights could ensure a workable mechanism for implementing domestic and international law protecting human rights.

Responding to the dispute, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain that the provision for a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights was incorporated in the Good Friday Agreement and agreed to by voters throughout the 32 counties in 1998.

“The objective of providing for a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights for the north in the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement was, and continues to be, to ensure the maximum protection and harmonisation of rights throughout the island,” he said.

“Sinn Féin also argues for the introduction of an All Ireland Charter of Rights to provide protections throughout the island. Given the effect of 30 years of conflict, a strong Bill of Rights is required to provide citizens with the means to ensure their rights.”

Mr O Caolain said the Church of Ireland editorial ignored the “necessary human rights and equality perspective needed to ensure those who are hostile to such principles cannot thwart the objectives of the Bill.

“There is no hidden nationalist or republican agenda in seeking a Bill of Rights. There is certainly no agenda as has been wrongly claimed to deny unionists and loyalists their rights. Equality is the cornerstone of Sinn Féin’s political work, equality for all the peoples on this island.”

In an unusual editorial, the church’s newspaper, the Church of Ireland Gazette, claimed the arguments in favour of the Bill of Rights suffered from “an astounding lack of clarity” and suggested plans for new legislation on the issue were part of a united Ireland agenda.

It added: “There are those in the Stormont establishment who want a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, as opposed to the UK as a whole, because they want Northern Ireland to relate more closely to the Republic of Ireland than to the rest of the UK.”

The international human rights expert who chairs the North’s Bill of Rights Forum rejected the church’s criticism of the project. Chris Sidoti argued that a Bill would help cement the peace process.

“Northern Ireland is a society rising out of conflict and suffering,” he said. “As the 1998 [Good Friday] Agreement itself recognised, the new shared future of Northern Ireland must be one built on human rights. A Bill of Rights is the best sure means of achieving that.”

A second argument in favour was based on the need to address the legacy of conflict. He argued therefore that while people in the North of Ireland can be protected under the general British law, they could also benefit from their own Bill of Rights that addresses the legacy of their recent history.

Mr Sidoti also said that a Bill of Rights could ensure a workable mechanism for implementing domestic and international law protecting human rights.

Responding to the dispute, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain that the provision for a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights was incorporated in the Good Friday Agreement and agreed to by voters throughout the 32 counties in 1998.

“The objective of providing for a comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights for the north in the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement was, and continues to be, to ensure the maximum protection and harmonisation of rights throughout the island,” he said.

“Sinn Féin also argues for the introduction of an All Ireland Charter of Rights to provide protections throughout the island. Given the effect of 30 years of conflict, a strong Bill of Rights is required to provide citizens with the means to ensure their rights.”

Mr O Caolain said the Church of Ireland editorial ignored the “necessary human rights and equality perspective needed to ensure those who are hostile to such principles cannot thwart the objectives of the Bill.

“There is no hidden nationalist or republican agenda in seeking a Bill of Rights. There is certainly no agenda as has been wrongly claimed to deny unionists and loyalists their rights. Equality is the cornerstone of Sinn Féin’s political work, equality for all the peoples on this island.”

© 2008 Irish Republican News