Sinn Fein is ‘abusing the concept of rights’ to block Stormont, says human rights expert

The Stormont assembly chamber. MLAs have not been sitting since January 2017, when Sinn Fein brought down devolution
The Stormont assembly chamber. MLAs have not been sitting since January 2017, when Sinn Fein brought down devolution

Sinn Fein has abused the concept of human rights by setting up such rights as pre-conditions for the return of Stormont, an expert says today.

Professor Brice Dickson, former chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), criticises republicans for refusing to re-establish devolution until the conferment of gay marriage and Irish language rights is guaranteed first.

“The party seemingly won’t even agree to establish the Executive and Assembly on a time-limited basis to see if those rights can be agreed therein by a certain deadline,” he writes in today’s News Letter (see link below). “To me this is an increasingly indefensible position, and for three reasons.

“First, it is counter-productive to be demanding those rights while denying people a much more basic right — the right to government.

“The absence of government in Northern Ireland during the last 28 months has had a hugely more deleterious effect on people’s well-being than the absence of same-sex marriage or an Irish language act.

“Second, of all my friends and acquaintances who are gay and/or speak Irish ... resent those rights being used as bargaining chips in some larger political game.”

He also points out that Sinn Fein supported NIHRC advice to government on a Bill of Rights in 2008, which “included neither” a right to gay marriage nor a right to use Irish.

Professor Dickson’s article in full is here.

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