Tories will not take McWilliams' path - Cameron

Conservative leader David Cameron has categorically ruled out a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland if he becomes the next Prime Minister.

In implicit criticism of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission's (NIHRC) proposals, Mr Cameron said that it was undemocratic to take power from politicians and give it to unelected judges.

Professor Monica McWilliams, who heads up the NIHRC, has repeatedly defended the commission's proposals, which she says were based on international human rights standards.

However, speaking to the News Letter during his visit to Ballymena last week, Mr Cameron said that a Conservative Government would not enact any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as envisaged by the Human Rights Commission.

In a statement to the News Letter yesterday, the Tory leader spelt out some more of the detail of his thinking on a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

"It is important the rights of everyone in our society are protected," he said.

"But Conservatives and Unionists do not want to take power away on issues such as social and economic policy from democratically-elected representatives and hand it over to unelected judges.

"That is not good for democracy.

"We are proposing that any Northern Ireland-specific issues are best dealt with in a sub-section of a UK-wide Bill of Rights and Responsibilities - protecting rights and respecting the role of democratically-elected representatives."

A spokesman for the NIHRC said: "We were given our mandate under the terms fo the Belfast Agreement and have adhered to that mandate in full.

"The Agreement was quite clear, that additional rights reflecting our particular circumstances, taken together with the European Convention on Human Rights, should constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

"If the Conservative Party wishes to deviate from the content of the Agreement that is a matter for them.

"The discussion of a possible Bill of Rights and Responsiblities for the UK as a whole is a separate matter to the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the Government has made this point clear so as to ensure their is no confusion.'