After the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (or part of it) delivered its advice on a Bill of Rights for the province, the government has published a consultation paper on the subject.
At Slugger O’Toole, Belfast Gonzo observes that the NIO document has dispensed with most of the NIHRC’s work. The Secretary of State previously noted that the body had strayed far beyond its remit.
Gonzo asks whether Monica McWilliams, the chief commissioner, should resign her post.
She has failed in her brief, she has taken a nakedly political approach to a public position - helping to turn the commission into something resembling a pressure group - and she has been paid £70,000 per annum by the tax payer. This blog has long previously contributed its voice to the campaign for resignation.
The Consultation Paper notes that the British government has already discharged all the duties which were required of it, under the Belfast Agreement, in order to safeguard rights in Northern Ireland. Despite nationalist claims to the contrary, the accord did not include a mandatory Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Indeed, the Commission which was charged with investigating the scope for such a bill did a dismal job.
In the NIO document it is pointed out that, “over half of the rights proposed in the NIHRC’s Advice are equally as relevant to the people of England, Scotland and Wales as they are to the people of Northern Ireland and, therefore, fall to be considered in a UK-wide context“. There is much more in this vein. And it echoes countless independent critics who were ignored at each stage of the Commission’s project.
The vast majority of rights issues which pertain to Northern Ireland are equally applicable to the rest of the United Kingdom and ought to be discussed within the context of a national debate. The few matters which are specific to Northern Ireland, and which the NIHRC, ironically, largely ignored, can quite easily be appended to a UK wide bill.
The consultation into a bill of rights, like the Human Rights Commissioner, has outlived its usefulness. It should be stopped, before it wastes any more precious pounds.