NI: Rights watchdog settles with Northern Ireland Office over election address disclosure

NI: Rights watchdog settles with Northern Ireland Office over election address disclosure

Máiría Cahill

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has settled a case against the Northern Ireland Office over the requirement for local election candidates to disclose their home address.

The human rights watchdog launched proceedings in February 2020 on behalf of Máiría Cahill, who withdrew from the elections in 2019 because of the requirement.

A sitting councillor for the Killultagh district in Lisburn and Castlereagh Council at the time, she said she was not willing to publish her address because of “various legal orders” in place to protect her from violence and harassment.

Responsibility for election law in Northern Ireland falls to the Northern Ireland Office and the law has now been changed. Candidates can now indicate if they do not wish their home address to be disclosed.

NIHRC chief commissioner Les Allamby said: “The previous election law put, for example, victims of domestic violence at risk by forcing them to publish their address. It was unacceptable to expect anyone to jeopardise their safety to run for public office.

“The Commission welcomes the decision to change the law, settle this case and pay compensation, given that Maíríá lost the opportunity to stand as a candidate in local elections. We would like to thank Máiriá for allowing us to support her to take the case and for her courage. She has paved the way to protect the human rights of anyone who may have faced similar circumstances in the future.”

Ms Cahill added: “I wish to thank the NIHRC and the people who supported me in taking this case, which has - no doubt - influenced the British Government to change the law so that nobody again will have their safety put at risk by having to publish their home address.

“Personally, it is frustrating that this settlement did not come much sooner in the process, which would have saved time, effort and public money. Nevertheless, I am glad that nobody else will now be put in the position that I was, again.”

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