Daphne Trimble explains why she can't support the Bill of Rights advice
Lady Trimble, one of two Commissioners, who dissented from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission advice to the Secretary of State has set out her reasons for not supporting the final document. She tells the Secretary of State, "As I have not been permitted to have my dissenting views published in that report I must therefore write to you separately, attaching them. This I now do."
Her letter is below the fold.
Letter from Commissioner Dapne Trible to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
11 December 2008
Dear Secretary of State,
ADVICE FROM COMMISSIONER DAPHNE TRIMBLE
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was required by the Belfast Agreement,
to consult and advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, 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.
I have not been able to agree to the advice provided by the majority of the Commission which was presented to you in the form of a report on 10 December. As I have not been permitted to have my dissenting views published in that report I must therefore write to you separately, attaching them. This I now do.
My fundamental difference is that the rest of the Commission has misinterpreted its mandate and that the additional rights suggested by the majority have little if anything to do with the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem. This was plainly required to be the essence of our advice, on the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland advice which reflected the reasons behind and the purpose of the Belfast Agreement.
The additional rights suggested by the majority are outwith our mandate and take insufficient cognisance of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its jurisprudence, or the UK Human Rights Act (which was being legislated at the time of the talks that led to the Agreement).
Furthermore the Commission gave little or no consideration (or conducted research) on what might constitute any rights additional to the ECHR around mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem. Without evidence, I am therefore not persuaded of the need for rights supplementary to the ECHR in the form of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
Separately, I have grave doubts about the efficacy or appropriateness of many of the rights in the majority report and see little possibility of them receiving any form of cross-community support.
As my views are not be contained in the Commissions report, then, in order that any subsequent consultation be fully informed, I would ask the Northern Ireland Office to consider how the public can be aware of the minority views on the Commission as well as the view of the majority.
I remain committed both to human rights and the work of the Commission. As you know, we are obliged and will continue to provide you and the Executive Committee of the Assembly with advice under section 69 (7) of the Northern Ireland Act on legislative and other measures which ought to be taken to protect human rights.
Commissioner Daphne Trimble