Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated: “As a liberal party, Alliance remains committed to a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. Respect for human rights, alongside democracy and the rule of law, is a fundamental building block of a healthy society.
“The past decade has seen a very frustrating process, with delays and unrealistic ambitions that were never going to find acceptance in Northern Ireland or Westminster. Now the maximalist demands of some have been replaced with a minimalist consultation that is too narrow to consider areas where rights protections can be enhanced.
“There is now talk about a new UK Bill of Rights. Provided that this does not compromise the existing protections within the Human Rights Act, this may be a positive development. There is nevertheless still scope for a Northern Ireland Bill that focuses on particular circumstances of Northern Ireland. Any British Government would expect some discipline to such a process.
“Alliance sees the potential for rights being recognised that can reflect our divided society but also help people to overcome divisions. Rights can be used to support people who want shared education or mixed housing, and to better protect shared space. One of the central challenges today is how we reconcile the celebration of diverse cultures and identities while respecting shared space and the rights of others. A Northern Ireland Bill of Rights can inform this debate.
“That said, Alliance is wary of any attempt to institutionalise through a Bill of Rights the sectarian divisions in society and some of the policy responses that have arisen over the past decades. A Bill of Rights must be flexible and forward-looking to deal with the challenges of a changing Northern Ireland rather than being a slave to our past.”
The detailed response of the Alliance Party to the NIO Consultation on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland can be found at: