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Anderson slams attack on Bill of Rights

2 November, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Any attack on a Bill of Rights for the North is an attack on the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson has Martina Anderson MLA has insisted.

The Foyle Assembly member was speaking ahead of an Assembly debate on Tuesday calling for the scrapping of the Bill of Rights Forum proposals.

“As a member of the Bill of Rights Forum, I welcomed the handover of the Human Rights Commission to the Secretary of State last December,” Ms. Anderson said.

“After many long years of waiting, that represented considerable progress and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything the Commission is saying, I do believe the advice constitutes a genuine and rigorous approach to the mandate they were given.

“They are to be commended for the work they have done and the onus is now on the British government to fulfil their part of the bargain by publishing the consultation without further delay.

“And that isn’t just my view, that is the view of the United Nations, Amnesty International – and many other respected, domestic and international human rights organisations - who have all called on the British Government to enact the Bill.

“Unfortunately, it seems there are still some who do not want to extend rights and protections to the most vulnerable and some who also want to remove some of the protections people already have.

“But 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.

“Within the Bill of Rights Forum, the DUP and UUP opposed the right to a decent standard of living, including adequate food, water, fuel and clothing.

“They 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 opposed the inclusion of the right to work and to enjoy a fair wage and proper conditions.

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

“This issue is not about republican, nationalist, unionist or loyalist rights; it is about the rights of all.

“It is also a fundamental commitment of both the Good Friday and St. Andrew’s agreement. It represents an incredible opportunity to make a real and positive difference to the lives of our people, and to squander that opportunity would be the greatest human-rights abuse of all.” CRÍOCH


The motion proposed by Tom Elliott and Danny Kennedy of the UUP states:
That this Assembly considers the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s advice to the Secretary of State “A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland” as incompatible with the provisions of the Belfast Agreement; notes with concern that the proposals would undermine the democratic role and authority of this Assembly and the Parliament of the United kingdom; and urges the Secretary of State not to implement the report’s recommendations.

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