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Recent comments regarding Bill of Rights "disappointing"- Anderson MLA

4 January, 2008

Responding to recent comments made by the Church of Ireland publication and the DUP with regard to the Bill of Rights for the North Sinn Fein's Equality and Human Rights spokesperson, Foyle MLA Martina Anderson said:

"Recent negative comments made over recent days in a Church of Ireland publication regarding the Bill of Rights for the North need to be put into perspective from a human rights and equality perspective otherwise they will be used and abused by those who are hostile to these principles being embedded throughout our society.

Firstly, the publication in question has an independent voice from the main Church of Ireland position which has supported a Bill of Rights and indeed the development of a charter of rights for the island since the Good Friday Agreement was signed and voted for. It is therefore important that the general public is therefore not confused or misguided by many of the negative opinions expressed around the Bill of Rights in the Church of Ireland publication which have now naturally found support in the News Letter and among certain elements of the DUP.

The reality is that the DUP and the Ulster Unionists have been contributing with every other political party and with representatives of civic society for the past year to explore the kind of fundamental rights that need to be given protection in a Bill of Rights for the north and for everyone in the north, not just nationalists.

There is no hidden nationalist or republican agenda in seeking a Bill of Rights and certainly no agenda as has been wrongly claimed to deny unionists and loyalists their rights. We are all trying to develop a Bill of Rights that protects the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We are working with the parties and with civic society to put the legacy of a conflict behind us so that collectively we can bring about a society truly based on respect for human rights and equality for all.

It is therefore disappointing that such comments have been made at a time when the real challenge before us is to work together to ensure that we collectively secure a strong and inclusive Bill of Rights that will provide our people with the means of improving their current lives and those of future generations. We would ask people from all sections of our society to reject well-meaning but ultimately destructive views around the Bill of Rights potential and to ensure as the Bill of Rights consultative process develops that they take ownership of it themselves by expressing their own views and opinions."


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