‘Epic’ power grab seen in London’s unilateral actions

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The British government’s proposed Bill of Rights has been described as a “power grab on an epic scale” that will violate the Good Friday Agreement’s basic human rights guarantees.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Emma Sheerin said it was “a damning indictment” of the British government that it would take such extreme measures to avoid accountability from an independent court.

“The Tories are threatening to revoke the very convention that protects our right to vote, to freedom of speech and to a fair trial,” she said.

“The European Convention of Human Rights underpins the Good Friday Agreement and this is another attempt by the British government to override their international obligations and leave themselves accountable to no one.

“We still don’t have a Bill of Rights for the north as promised in the Good Friday Agreement, which would have protected us in this situation.

“Now, we will lose access to the European Court that has provided key judgements in legacy cases. The British government’s agenda not only threatens our human rights, but also our peace agreement.”

Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium, an umbrella group of 160 organisations, described the Tory legislation as a substantial weakening of rights and a violation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Hanratty said the legislation is a “rights removal bill” which would “undermine and diminish the current application of human rights law while making it harder to challenge the government for rights violations and seek redress.

London’s multiple attacks on the 1998 peace deal continue to draw national and international condemnation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke out again after Westminster MPs voted in favour of the Brexit Protocol Bill to get a second reading. The motion passed, despite the legislation being condemned by senior Tory figures, including former British Prime Minister Theresa May, as a breach of international law.

The bill violates both the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. It is feared that if passed, it could spark a trade war between Britain and the EU.

Mr Martin referred to London’s “unacceptable trend towards unilateralism” in its actions in relation to the north of Ireland. Responding to a question from Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Martin said Monday’s vote result in London was “unacceptable”.

“This is a trend within the current British government towards aspects of the Good Friday Agreement, be it the protocol, be it legacy issues or be it now, more recently, its action on human rights,” Mr Martin told TDs.

“There is an unacceptable trend towards unilateralism. The steps we intend to take is to work absolutely in concert with our European partners.”

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