5 December 2001
Proposed Bill of Rights fails Good Friday test
Speaking at the launch of the Sinn Fein response to `Making a Bill of Rights' - the Human Rights Commission consultation document, party spokesperson on Human Rights Pat McNamee said `that despite some progress being made the proposed Bill of Rights fails the Good Friday Agreement test'.
Mr. McNamee said:
``Sinn Fein is committed to a wide ranging Bill of Rights in the Six Counties as the first step towards enhancing and harmonising human rights standards throughout the island.
``The Human Rights Commission was charged by the Good Friday Agreement to produce a Bill of Rights. This is the yardstick by which Sinn Fein analysed the consultation document.
``We do welcome many aspects of the Commissions consultation document and acknowledge that progress has clearly been made in relation to democratic rights, social and economic rights and the rights of children.
``However basic Human Rights are not negotiable. It appears that the Commission believes that it can draft a Bill of Rights acceptable to the British government, or those within unionism who are opposed to change without regard to those who have actually suffered from institutional discrimination for decades.
``As it stands at present the proposed Bill of Rights does not meet the requirements set by the Good Friday Agreement. This situation is unacceptable.
- Parity of Esteem - Is a key principle of the Good Friday Agreement, recognised by the two governments and all of the pro-Agreement parties. Yet the Human Rights Commission is recommending that it should not be rooted as a principle in the proposed Bill of Rights.
- The Irish language - was given special recognition under the Good Friday Agreement. This is again ignored in the consultation document.
- The Constitutional Position - the Good Friday Agreement affords the right for nationalists and republicas to work towards constitutional change. The Human Rights Commission has simply avoided what is a crucial issue for the vast majority of people living in the Six Counties.
- Constitutional Court - given the bigotry of the judiciary in the Six Counties, Sinn Fein is proposing that an All-Ireland Constitutional Court is the only appropriate mechanism for arbitration on Human Rights issues.
``The Good Friday Agreement provided the Human Rights Commission with a platform to develop a Bill of Rights which would have been the envy of the world. However the minimalist approach to this task has so far resulted in their proposals falling well short of this mark.
``This is a crucial issue especially for those within the nationalist community who have been the victims of widespread discrimination since partition. It must be got right. Sinn Fein will continue to meet with the Commission, engage publicly with the community and work tirelessly to ensure that this unique opportunity is not squandered.''
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