04/09/2001

Provisional Bill of Rights is unveiled

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published its provisional proposals for what should be contained in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The Commission’s provisional proposals cover democratic rights, identity rights, equality rights, women’s rights, the right to life, criminal justice rights, victims rights, the right to family life and private life, children’s rights, education rights, language rights and social, economic and environmental rights.

The Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Brice Dickson, sent out a clear message on what he wanted to see emerge from the enactment of such a Bill.

He said: “With these proposals for a Bill of Rights we can all begin to believe that a legal system can at last be put in place here which fully protects people against basic injustices. At the same time the Commission recognises that along with rights go duties to exercise those rights responsibly. We do not want a Bill of Rights to be a plaything of lawyers or of politicians: we want it to become embedded in the fabric of society so that people can benefit from it in their daily lives and so that as often as possible problems can be prevented before they arise.”

The SDLP’s Alex Attwood welcomed the publication of the Bill of Rights. He said: “The resolution of issues of rights is central to the resolution of our conflict. The fullest resolution of conflict can best be secured by the fullest range of rights in the proposed Bill of Rights.

“In our submission to the Human Rights Commission and in the coming months, the SDLP shall strongly press for an expansive Bill of Rights covering economic, social, civil, political and community rights.” (CD)

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