I enjoyed this article by my friend Jeff Dudgeon;
“Eamon Gilmore’s mischievous remarks at the Alliance Party conference last week can’t have been particularly welcome to his audience who take a different position from nationalists on a local Bill of Rights. Indeed in 2008, the party voted with Unionist MLAs to express “grave concern at the lack of cross-community support” for the Bill of Rights Forum report. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) duly followed up with proposals failing further to achieve cross-community support.
The Tanaiste called for “rights which reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem” – a phrase from the remit of NIHRC and the Forum. However he seemed unaware that both bodies refused to research such concepts, proposing instead dozens of radical, left wing demands.
The industry simply cannot stop itself doing politics through human rights, not least because it is floating in money from Chuck Feeney’s ‘Atlantic Philanthropies’. The American billionaire funds the Human Rights Consortium as well as NIHRC – until the Secretary of State called a halt. Owen Paterson said he wanted to preserve its independence “which could be compromised were it to start regularly receiving large amounts of money from external sources.”
One wonders if Eamon Gilmore’s officials remembered to advise, as Professor Colin Harvey did in a recent article on ‘The Detail’ website (also funded by Atlantic Philanthropies), that “the Irish Government – in recognition of the concept of equivalence – undertook to mirror the guarantees” on rights in the Belfast Agreement. Not music to the ears of our cash-strapped neighbour.
Fiona McCausland of the Consortium says (Platform, 24 April) that the Belfast Agreement was an international treaty “which provided for a Bill of Rights that would ‘reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland’.” The Agreement of course did not provide for a Bill. It agreed only to seek advice on the possibility, while the industry ironically fought furiously against restricting that advice to our “particular circumstances.” With so much money could they not originate possible supplementary rights on parading and education, as Mike Nesbitt suggests?
And there the matter will lie pending the slim possibility of a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities coming out of Westminster. The Strasbourg court will instead remain supreme, assuming it weathers the serious storms over Abu Qatada and prisoners votes. No provincial Bill – with provisions that would make Ed Balls blanch – will ever see the light of day. “