The DUP has hit out at the Irish government after it opposed plans by David Cameron to scrap the UK’s adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights via the UK’s Human Rights Act (HRA).
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the move would undermine parts of the Good Friday Agreement which lean on the legislation.
Mr Flanagan said: “Protecting the human rights aspects of the Good Friday Agreement is not only a shared responsibility between the two Governments in terms of the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland, but is also an obligation on them as parties to the international treaty, lodged with the UN, in which the Agreement was enshrined,” he said.
But DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson pointed out that the DUP had “never endorsed” the Good Friday Agreement and said Northern Ireland “has moved on significantly since the time it was signed”.
“It is notable that the Irish Government failed to honour its commitments in the Belfast Agreement on the subject of human rights until last year when it finally established a human rights commission,” he said. “We will therefore take no lectures from Dublin on this topic.” [NOTE The Irish government has pointed out that it set up a commission in 2001]
The DUP wants reform to end exploitation of the HRA by criminals, for example, by removing the “right to family life” defence against their deportation. Reforms have not yet been tabled, but the Tories have promised a British Bill of Rights which will ‘remain faithful’ to the European Convention, he said. Nobody has explained how this will damage Northern Ireland, he said.
But SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the plan is “deeply worrying” and the government should be under no illusions that his party “will fight [it] in the Assembly, in Westminster, and alongside our colleagues in Europe.”