The bill of rights is “not an outstanding issue” from the Good Friday Agreement, a UUP councillor and gay rights activist has said.
Jeffrey Dudgeon, whose landmark 1981 European court case led to homosexuality being decriminalised in Northern Ireland, has claimed that “certain myths are being peddled about by some in political circles” regarding the need for clarification on a potential bill of rights for the Province.
The Belfast councillor said: “The specific undertaking in the Belfast Agreement was for the government to request the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) to advise on the scope for designing a specifically limited bill of rights for Northern Ireland.
“The government fulfilled its obligation by issuing the request. NIHRC duly responded with its report.”
He added that, in consequent political discussions between the parties, there was no agreement on the need for a local bill of rights.
“So there is no commitment outstanding from the Belfast Agreement”, Mr Dudgeon stated.
Setting out his party’s position on the matter, Mr Dudgeon said the 1998 UK-wide Human Rights Act, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, fulfilled “all necessary human rights requirements”.
He added: “The agreement cannot be misinterpreted to suit a particular political agenda. No matter how different some may wish the terms of the agreement to have been in relation to a bill of rights, they cannot change what has been written into a legal and constitutional document.
“To do so would be absolute folly and would potentially interfere with the constitutional protection for everyone in NI.”