The Alliance Party has written to the Secretary of State to express its continued support for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, and its disgust at the attempts by former commissioners, certain academics and nationalists politicians to discredit it.
Party Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry commented:
“Alliance continues to have full confidence in the work of the Commission and its Chief Commissioner. We may not agree with every stance that the Commission adopts, but we recognise that they are attempting to fulfil their mandate in a professional manner.
“We are appalled at the current attempts by former commissioners, certain academics and nationalists politicians to discredit it.
“Alliance will oppose any efforts to marginalize the Commission in relation to its work on the Bill of Rights. The best route to deliver a Bill of Rights is for a group of independent experts to make recommendations based on widespread and ongoing consultation with political partiers and civic society. It would be a disaster, and an invitation for a sectarian carve-up, for this to be left directly to the political parties.
“One of the key disputes seems to be based upon a reactionary view of the Agreement where Northern Ireland must be institutionally divided into a Protestant Unionist majority and a Catholic Nationalist minority where rights are primarily a concern for the latter rather than for all sections of the community.
“This approach not only plays straight into Unionist fears, but denies the greater pluralism that is gradually emerging in Northern Ireland society, and inhibits the free choice of identity of those wishing to break the ‘two communities’ paradigm, In the 2001 Census, 14% of the population – close to a quarter of a million people – did not want to be labelled as part of an exclusive community; their rights matter just like every other section of society.
“We must have a Bill of Rights and equality monitoring that is sufficiently flexible to reflect changing realities on the ground.
“Alliance does see merit in a roundtable forum on the Bill of Rights that can aid in helping the Commission to produce a generally acceptable set of recommendations.
“However, if the roundtable is to be little more than an exercise for those that have become disaffected to second guess the Commission it would be more than counterproductive.