NI: Report warning of Good Friday Agreement breach launched in Westminster

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP

An independent report concluding that the repeal of the Human Rights Act is likely to breach the Good Friday Agreement was launched in Westminster yesterday.

The report was prepared by Belfast firm KRW Law and Doughty Street Chambers and commissioned by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament.

According to the report authors, the Agreement imposes a specific obligation on the UK government to “complete incorporation” of the European Convention on Human Rights in Northern Ireland law.

They say the Agreement is part of an international treaty between the UK and Ireland, and the UK detracting from its commitment to incorporate the Convention in Northern Ireland could therefore represent a material breach of international law.

First published in March, the report was yesterday given an official launch in the Houses of Parliament at a cross-party event.

The former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP spoke at the event, alongside Northern Ireland’s human rights commissioner Les Allamby and Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan.

Speaking ahead of the event, Doughty Street Chambers barrister Caoilfhionn Gallagher, co-author of the report, said: “Northern Ireland is often overlooked when Westminster politicians are devising policy which will affect the UK as a whole.

“The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was the culmination of a long, delicate and painful process of negotiation and compromise across the political spectrum. Protection of fundamental rights and freedom from discrimination are the lifeblood of the Agreement.

“The Human Rights Act is now critical to how Northern Ireland runs, including its policing structures, and is the mechanism used to hold the State to account for historic failures.

“The implications of the proposed repeal for Northern Ireland, and the wider ramifications for the UK of the Northern Irish aspects, should be front and centre of this debate.”

Niall Murphy, partner at KRW Law and director of Relatives for Justice, added: “These proposals are a full frontal assault on our Peace Agreement. For many victims of the conflict, the Human Rights Act is an essential tool to ensure that there is a proper and full investigation where there has been a breach of their rights by State agents, including cases where the State failed to protect their loved ones’ lives or were responsible for their deaths.

“We hope that this report will serve to inform the need to protect our rights, to protect the peace and to deliver truth, justice and accountability for the victims of our Conflict which shapes our present and determines our future.”

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