Young Citizens in Action visited Belfast Royal Academy on Wednesday 24th February to hold a workshop around Northern Ireland’s response to the Bill of Rights proposal. Ten pupils studying politics participated in the focus group and were very keen to get their voices heard on this issue! The session started with an overview of the Bill of Rights journey to date from Human Rights Lawyer Geraldine Scullion, the students then partook in several worksheets outlining, what they believed, was fundamental to a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. They spoke about the Northern Ireland Offices’ response and agreed that it was not what they would like to see in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Young Citizens in Action have submitted a response to NIO. For more information, visit www.BillOfRightsNI.org
The context for our Group’s response:
A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was promised to the people of Northern Ireland by the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, 1998. The Agreement stated:
The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will be invited to consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and - taken together with the ECHR - to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Among the issues for consideration by the Commission will be:
· the formulation of a general obligation on government and public bodies fully to respect, on the basis of equality of treatment, the identity and ethos of both communities in Northern Ireland; and
· a clear formulation of the rights not to be discriminated against and to equality of opportunity in both the public and private sectors.