The Alliance Party has today published its response to the draft Bill of Rights issued by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has welcomed the bulk of the recommendations, but expressed concern at a number especially the suggestion that a right to funding for segregated schools be entrenched.
Dr Farry stated:
“Alliance welcomes this process for developing a Bill of Rights as an opportunity for Northern Ireland to have the most modern and advanced set of human rights protections in the world. Human rights belong to the individual citizen, and are universal and inalienable.”
“This document is bound to create much debate. Alliance welcomes the majority of the recommendations, particularly those on the rights of children. Nevertheless, we have a number of concerns.”
“In our initial submission to the Commission, we warned of the danger of entrenching sectarian divisions through creating group rights for Unionists and Nationalists. It seems that the Commission have mostly avoided this danger, particularly through refusing to recognise an undefinable ‘parity of esteem’. Care is necessary to ensure that this remains the case.”
“Alliance strongly also endorses the proposed right, drawn from the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities, that persons have a right to be treated or not to be treated as part of a community and that no disadvantages should arise from such choices.”
“We also advised that the Commission should stick as far as possible with existing European and international standards, and bring them into British law. It seems that where the Commission have departed from these most that they have sparked most controversy.”
“Alliance is outright opposed to the suggestion that there be a guaranteed right of funding for segregated schools. This goes well beyond existing European standards which merely respect the right to establish separate schools (but not necessarily with government funding), and require that religious and linguistic diversity must be reflected and accommodated in the public school system.”
“While it is open to the Executive to fund segregated schools as at present, this should not be institutionalised forever. Yet, this proposal risks forever entrenching segregated schools in Northern Ireland. Alliance has instead suggested a right not to be educated in a segregated system be included in the Bill of Rights.”
“Under the equality and non-discrimination section, Alliance was also disappointed that a right not to live in neutral environment similar to the existing right to work in a neutral environment was not put forward. The ghettoisation of Northern Ireland is a major contributory factor to social exclusion, and depriving people of opportunities.”
Notes for Editors: The Alliance Party response on the draft Bill of Rights can be viewed at: