A Bill of Rights for NI… why aren’t Unionists screaming for this?

5 01 2008

The Church of Ireland Gazette contains some pretty uncomplicated views on a Bill of Rights. It appeals to the DUP.

Not entirely sure why the CoI are wading into this, but for Unionists the CoI contribution isn’t such a good thing. It’ll reassure them that they haven’t screwed this up.

Our post-conflict society is attempting to ameliorate affects of communal division and will reach for rights/equality legislation to deal with its grief and act as surrogate/buffer to making difficult decisions.

Whenever statutory agencies, quangoes, Victims/Childrens’/Older People’s/Human Rights Commissioners, Ombudsmen, Groups on the Past, MLAs, judicial reviews, Westminster & EU start issuing buckets of guidelines and regulations, and custom, practice and common law underpins all this stuff in the absence of a BoR, will it benefit Unionism generally? If Unionists have vacated the driving seat, then, er, how can it?

Without structured framework and processes (embodied by the Human Rights Forum and BoR) are Unionists not inviting a farrago of competing, alternative interests to dictate events?

I’m sure it’s not beyond the capacity of Unionist advisers to put together a credible narrative on a BoR. Is there not a Unionist argument for being in the vanguard of delivering a rights-based social dispensation, take credible ownership of the issue and negate all this bollocks about the ‘equality agenda’?

It could be described as a bill as in the tradition of Peel and the Corn Laws… or another great episode to a Burkean journey that began with the Abolition of Slavery Act. There’s a Conservative appeal to all that stuff as well. Why not?

I understand the HRA/ECHR/UN argument, but it’s not relevant. The ground on human rights is rushing beneath Unionist feet and a more constructive approach is required when dealing with the inevitable.

When Unionists strengthen NI social fabric here, they strengthen the Union generally. Does a BoR not absolutely ensure EVERYONE becomes a stakeholder in NORTHERN IRELAND?

Unionists must see that the DNA of the Union post devolution is changing irrevocably. They should be leading the change and fashioning this new Union. A BoR can be seen as formulating a contract between citizenry and government within a new and evolving relationship. Instead Unionists declaim anyone with a vaguely Catholic-sounding name.

After Paisley’s embarrassing removal from the Free P moderatorship, the DUP will be loathe to counter a political position taken by a mainstream Protestant Church. So the DUP box themselves in. And Alliance were right about the UUP – calling for a Royal Commission is pretty poor politics. Especially when the BoR is being disowned. It’s a Unionist thing to do.

At least in the Human Rights Forum, Unionists can shape/control things. A Canute-like pose isn’t a winning proposition, surely?




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