NI: Human rights group concerned over continuing Bill of Rights plan

Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium
Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium

The Human Rights Consortium (HRC) has expressed concerns that plans for a British Bill of Rights are still on the table despite indications that it would breach the Good Friday Agreement.

The Queen’s Speech yesterday contained reference to UK government plans to take forward “proposals on a British Bill of Rights”.

Responding to the speech, Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium, said: “The Consortium believes that there is a fundamental lack of understanding within the Conservative Government that the Human Rights Act forms a central part of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (B/GFA).

“The agreement was an International Peace Treaty with another state signatory and removal of the HRA or any alteration of the enjoyment of the Convention rights it helps provides domestic access to would represent a serious breach of the terms of this agreement.

“It would also remove one of the core legislative and public authority scrutiny mechanisms that was so central to building and maintaining community confidence in the peace process and the new political institutions at Stormont.

“Work with our members across Northern Ireland has shown that the Human Rights Act has been an important tool for ensuring the protection of many individual rights across our society and its removal would represent a serious deterioration in those standards.

“The Act has been utilized for everything from allowing people to live independently in their homes with proper disability access to allowing unmarried widows to have equal access to child benefits.

“Getting rid of these protections is regressive and instead the UK Government should be seeking to use the HRA as bottom floor on which to build upon through progressive mechanisms such as a local Northern Ireland Bill of Rights rather than a version that seeks to diminish and remove rights as seems to be the case with proposals to date.”

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