Dr Anne Smith (Ulster) and Prof Colin Harvey (QUB) –
This presentation focuses on an independent funded project (Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust) that seeks to address the issue of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in the context of Brexit.
A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland remains part of the unfinished work of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. In response to its mandate under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) delivered the advice on a Bill of Rights to the British Government in 2008. The following year, in 2009, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) responded to this advice by publishing its consultation document. Since 2009 there has been little further discussion between the parties and the government on this specific issue, although it does appear to have re-emerged in the current negotiating process.
This presentation focuses on the preliminary findings of our research project, which includes drafting a model Bill of Rights and holding events to enable key stakeholders to contribute to the project. To respect the remit and context, the model Bill will be based on the NIHRC’s advice, taking the form of Westminster legislation in accordance with the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. Drawing upon preliminary findings which are evidence-based, reliable and accessible, this presentation highlights how this work could assist in unlocking the current political deadlock on this issue. It discusses a model Bill that respects the particular circumstances of this jurisdiction as one way to ensure that human rights remain central to the peace process. Such a Bill would not only strengthen accountability but also further establish good governance and advance the rule of law. This is particularly relevant for Northern Ireland where a Bill of Rights could provide a legal framework in relation to contentious rights issues.