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Bill of Rights – Sinn Féin Statement of Expression

4 April, 2007

Newly appointed Sinn Fein Human Rights and Equality Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Martina Anderson has outlined Sinn Féin's approach to the Bill of Rights at the Inaugural Bill of Rights Forum in Belfast today.

Ms Anderson said:

"I want to welcome you Chris to your new position and thank you for agreeing to contribute your international Human Rights experience to what is in effect a substantial commitment in terms of time to this important task.

"Nine years ago this Friday the Good Friday Agreement heralded an unprecedented opportunity which held out the prospect of a fresh start for everyone in Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement should be our reference point which guides our deliberations.

"The Forum provides an opportunity and a space to enter into a meaningful discourse that will reach across and into the communities at grass-roots level. We need to popularise this issue, build consensus and develop outreach mechanisms which are built into each of the committee's Programme of Work.

"There have been many twists and turns along the road that has brought us all here today to discuss the Bill of Rights. We are mindful that the process has been very protracted and that many groups/organisations and ordinary people have been left feeling very frustrated at the slow pace of progress.

"It is our hope and expectation that this challenging but achievable opportunity can be used to enable people to move away from narrow points of view and unravel and de-sensitise the politically divisive issues around rights, which in previous attempts have damaged and tainted the Bill of Rights process.

"It is our task to ensure that this Forum has a process that is out-reaching and respectful and will be assisted by the best advice and knowledge that you can provide as chair with regard to human rights practises and protections.

"The Forum stands on strong common ground - because every political party has voiced its support for the people of the North to have a Bill of Rights. SF wants to see a strong and inclusive Bill of Rights that is enforceable.

"Clearly we have a mammoth and practical job of work before us in identifying the supplementary rights specific to our particular circumstances here in the North and there will be many in the South watching developments closely with an eye to the all-Ireland Charter of Rights.

"As we set out on a new journey today, let us embrace this opportunity before us at this juncture - let us be influenced by the words of a wise man who said "If you are given the opportunity of a lifetime - make sure you take it in the lifetime of the opportunity". ENDS

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