Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights Stakeholder Consultation

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights recently held a call for evidence. Members of the Committee were delighted to receive over 2,400 responses through written submissions and survey responses and the Committee is very grateful to everyone who took the time to provide their views.

The next stage of the process was to capture more in-depth feedback on this topic. To ensure that the Committee heard from a diverse range of voices, a series of stakeholder events took place between March - May 2021.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these stakeholder events were delivered via virtual platforms.

The full timetable of events can be found below. Events were based broadly around section 75 groups.

 

Timetable of events*

Bill of Rights Stakeholder Events

 

DateEvent

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Older People

Thursday 25 March 2021

Religious and Cultural Groups

Tuesday 20 April 2021

LGBTQ+

Wednesday 21 April 2021

People with a physical disability and carers

Friday 23 April 2021

People with a learning disability

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Women

Tuesday 27 April 2021

General public

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Human Rights Consortium

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Children and Young People

In addition to the stakeholder events, the Committee worked in partnership with a number of organisations to obtain the views of the following groups, following advice from organisations in the community and voluntary sector that this would be the most effective way of engaging with them:

    -  Travellers ( facilitated by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive)

    - Refugees and Asylum Seekers (facilitated by the Red Cross who held workshops in English, Somali, Arabic and                   Tigrinya to facilitate the participation of individuals with a variety of  immigration status)

 

The Northern Ireland Assembly Education Service also conducted a series of focus groups with primary and post-primary school children across all school sectors in Northern Ireland. A summary of the discussions from these focus groups is available here.

    

Introductory guide to the consultation for the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights

Introduction to the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights

In 2020 the Assembly set up a committee, a group of MLAs, to look at the creation of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland.

Ad Hoc Committees are temporary committees set up by the Assembly for a specific purpose and they are dissolved once they finish their work.

Human rights are freedoms and protections belonging to everyone.

Examples of human rights include the right to live in safety, the right to go where we want, the right to own our own things, the right to vote and the right to believe in whatever we like.

A bill of rights contains human rights protections for everyone – it is a list of the laws a country agrees to make to protect all the people who live there.

It can also contain guiding principles or ideas about what we would like to achieve for society here, or ideas about what Northern Ireland could be like. This could be based on values or beliefs about what is important for Northern Ireland now and in the future. These are often held within a preamble, or an introduction to the list of rights.

 

What has happened previously on a bill of rights for Northern Ireland?

A bill of rights for Northern Ireland has been discussed and debated for decades. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement provided that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission should advise government on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which they did in 2008, after extensive consultation and drawing upon the work of the Bill of Rights Forum. However, a bill of rights was not taken forward at that time.

 

What the Committee is looking at

The New Decade, New Approach deal, which paved the way for the Assembly and the other institutions to be restored last year, called for this committee to consider the creation of a bill of rights. Its work involves looking at whether we should have a bill of rights, and what rights it might include.

It referred to provisions within the 1998 Belfast Agreement (the Good Friday Agreement) in relation to a bill of rights. It said that a bill of rights should be in line with the intentions written in the Agreement in that it should have more rights than those we already have through the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Convention on Human Rights includes the right to life, the right to be free and safe, the right to a fair trial, the right to get married and the right to vote.

These extra rights should reflect the ‘particular circumstances’ of Northern Ireland, and the ‘principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem’ - valuing both main communities in Northern Ireland equally.

 

How can I find out more about the implications of a bill of rights on Northern Ireland?

You can find out more about the evidence and briefings the Committee has received by following the links below.

You can also access coverage of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights here:

Further information on the business of the Committee can be found here:

 

What will happen to the results of the consultation?

The results of the survey and focus groups will be collated and examined by the Committee to help inform the Committee’s work.  

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