NI: Polling finds strong support for Bill of Rights

NI: Polling finds strong support for Bill of Rights

More than four in five people in Northern Ireland believe that the right to an adequate standard of physical and mental health should be protected in law through a Bill of Rights following the Covid-19 pandemic.

New public polling commissioned in collaboration by Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast and the Human Rights Consortium has found significant cross-community support for the inclusion of a range of rights in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The polling provides evidence that societal factors such as Brexit, conversations concerning the future of Northern Ireland and the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic have increased support for a Bill of Rights.

Nearly four in five (78 per cent) believe that it is important that there should be a mechanism in place to ensure that any rights contained in the Bill of Rights should be enforceable by law.

Around a third feel that their experiences of Brexit (33 per cent), the Covid-19 pandemic (34 per cent) and conversations concerning a border poll and the future of Northern Ireland (36 per cent) have increased their belief that their rights would be better protected through a specific Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

This research explores public attitudes towards what a Bill of Rights should contain and has found that a significant majority consider it important to include the following: the right to education (88 per cent); the right to an adequate standard of mental and physical health (88 per cent); the right to adequate accommodation (84 per cent); the right to an adequate standard of living (84 per cent); the right to food (86 per cent); the right to work (83 per cent); and the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment (87 per cent).

This new evidence comes at the conclusion of a project with Dr Anne Smith of Ulster University and Professor Colin Harvey of Queen’s University Belfast, funded by Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, that has provided a draft model Bill of Rights as well as a range of research outputs.

Professor Harvey said: “The polling confirms what we have known for some considerable time. People across all communities want change, they would like a Bill of Rights to be delivered at long last. It is also clear that people want a full and inclusive range of enforceable rights, not simply words on a page.

“We hope that the outcomes from this collaborative research project will help to inform and shape a wider public conversation about the future promotion and protection of human rights here.”

Professor Rory O’Connell from Ulster University said: “As we start to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and seek to rebuild our society, this polling confirms widespread support for key rights necessary to this project: the rights to education, health, adequate standard of living, adequate housing, food, work, and a healthy environment.”

Kevin Hanratty, director of the Human Rights Consortium, added: “The results of this polling are yet further evidence of overwhelming public support across all sections of our society for an enhanced set of rights protections.”

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