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Sinn Féin comments on Bill of Rights advice

10 December, 2008 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Foyle Sinn Féin, MLA, Martina Anderson, has welcomed the next stage of the Bill of Rights process as the Human Rights Commission finally made its recommendations on what the new legislation should contain. The HRC advice was handed over to the British secretary of state, on International Human Rights Day (10th December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.)

Martina Anderson said,

"Sinn Féin will take time to fully assess the Commissioners Report before giving any detailed comment, but I nevertheless welcome today's development as another key step in realizing one of the outstanding commitments in the Good Friday Agreement."

The St Andrews Review agreed on the best way forward to enact legislation that would ensure that the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups are protected in law. The resulting Forum agreed a report, on which the HRC has used to provide advice to the NIO.

Ms Anderson continued,

"It is disappointing and unfortunate that two of the 10 Human Rights Commissioners formally dissented, without giving reason, from the report which was handed over today (Wednesday) to the British Secretary of State.

"And to those members of the DUP and UUP who continue to oppose a Bill of Rights, I would ask them to explain to their electorate, why they reject key rights for the people that they represent."

"For instance, the DUP and UUP opposed the right to a decent standard of living, including adequate food, water, fuel and clothing."

"Both parties also rejected the right to the highest possible standard of health and social care."

"They opposed the right to a decent home that is safe and affordable."

"They also oppose the inclusion in a Bill of Rights, the right to work and to enjoy a fair wage and proper conditions."

"They have rejected the right to a sustainable, healthy and safe environment or the right to adequate social security and pension."

"However, I hope that, particularly in the current economic climate, they will now begin to realize that a strong Bill of Rights would provide a powerful tool to make a huge difference to the lives of all our people."

"If implemented, a Bill of Rights would compel government to take whatever possible steps it can in order to address the economic and social problems which face our people."

"This isn't about Republican rights, nationalist rights, unionist or loyalist rights - it is about rights for ALL."

The Foyle MLA added,

"A Bill of Rights would compel future governments to legislate and provide whatever resources it can to comply with the contents of a Bill of Rights.

If they failed to do so, they would have to explain why and demonstrate when they are going to take appropriate action.

So what does the DUP and UUP fear in that?

Don't they want their people to have equality?

Don't they want their people to have prosperity?

Don't they want their people to have a Better Future?

These are questions which unionist politicians must answer. Sinn Féin is fully committed to continue to champion the rights of All."

Martina concluded,

"The Bill of Rights is a fundamental part of the Good Friday Agreement and I believe it represents an incredible opportunity to make a real and positive difference to the lives of all our people. I welcome the handover of the Human Rights Commission advice, as the next stage in this long process."

"The onus is now on the British Government to legislate on the Human Rights Commission's advice and not to allow yesterday's men and women to prevent us securing a shared and better future, for all of our people." ENDS

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