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Bill of Rights needs fresh start

5 October, 2005

Speaking prior to tomorrow's first meeting with newly appointed Human Rights Chief Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams, Sinn Féin's Equality & Human Rights spokesperson, Caitríona Ruane MLA said:

"Sinn Féin welcomes the opportunity to meet with the new Chief Commissioner Professor Monica McWilliams and other members of the commission. A constructive engagement between the commission with political parties and wider civic society is required to make a fresh start on the Bill of Rights process and other human rights issues.

"The development of a Bill of Rights to reflect the particular circumstances we have in the North needs to be expedited. It is almost eight years since we reached agreement to do so. This includes social and economic rights, children's rights and the rights or ethnic minorities and other vulnerable sections of our society.

"The victims of human rights abuse are many, whether as a direct result of the conflict or as a consequence of discrimination, sectarianism, racism, sexism, ageism or homophobia.

"Building momentum is a challenge for the Human Rights Commission, for all of us in positions of responsibility in society and particularly the Irish and British governments who now need to establish the long-delayed Roundtable Forum to assist the debate on the Bill of Rights.

"The British government must give the Commission adequate powers of investigation and provide the Commission with the power overall to take up human rights cases in its own name. If not, the Commission cannot act as an independent advocate and protector of human rights." ENDS

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