Unionists should not accept a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, because it will further distance us from Great Britain

News Letter editorial of Friday November 26 2021:

Friday, 26th November 2021, 10:53 am
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 11:01 am
News Letter editorial

The DUP has been criticised by Sinn Fein for, in effect, blocking a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

The party is said to be delaying appointments to an expert panel which will examine the purpose of such possible legislation and its contents.

The idea of a Bill of Rights is one that goes back a long while, and consideration of such was part of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

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But there has never been a commitment to make provision for such a bill.

In the years after the peace deal the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission came up with proposals for a Bill of Rights that was so radical, including socio-economic entitlements, that even the then Labour government in London baulked at it.

The pressure for a bill has waxed and waned but has never gone away.

And it will never go away. Republicans place such store by a Bill of Rights for NI because they know that it will separate the Province even further from Great Britain than it is today.

The DUP should never have allowed the New Decade New Approach agreement to restore Stormont last year to include mention of a Bill of Rights (even though the mention that did appear was non binding).

No unionist should contemplate acceptance of a specific Bill of Rights for NI. NI is far too small — with a population akin to that of Kent — to need its own specific protections. More importantly, the province is already detached from GB in a range of areas (even before the NI Protocol).

There is a specific problem with judicial led policy making. This is not a difficulty for NI alone, but something the current Tory government has vowed to curb across the UK. But it is a particular problem for NI, given our circumstances.

Policy making must be the domain of elected politicians, not courts citing powerful over-arching legislation.

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