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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 is to capture more in-depth feedback on this topic. To ensure that the Committee hears from a diverse range of voices, a series of stakeholder events will be hosted during March and April 2021.

If you or those you represent would like to participate in an online discussion please email engagement@niassembly.gov.uk, stating the name of the event you wish to attend. Please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served, basis.

The full timetable of events can be found below. Events are based broadly around section 75 groups, however, if you feel you do not represent one of these groups but still wish to take part, please attend the general public event.

 

Timetable of events*

Bill of Rights Stakeholder Events

March 2021

DateTimeEvent

TBC

TBC

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Tues 16/3

10:00-12:00

Older People

Thurs 25/3

19:00-21:00

Religious and Cultural Groups

April 2021

DateTimeEvent

TBC

TBC

Homelessness

Tues 13/4

09:00 – 11:00

Business

Wed 14/4

18:30 – 20:30

Young people 

Tues 20/4

18:30-20:30

LGBTQ+

Wed 21/4

18:30-20:30

Disabilities and Carers

Fri 23/4

14:00-16:00

People with a learning disability

Mon 26/4

10:00 -12:00

Women

Tues 27/4

19:00:21:00

General Public

Wed 28/4

18:30-20:30

Black and Minority Ethnic communities

*Please note that dates may be subject to change. Any changes will be notified 1 week in advance.

 

We have included some further information below, however if you have any questions please email engagement@niassembly.gov.uk.

 

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.

 

What the discussion will include

The discussion will cover what you think of a bill of rights in Northern Ireland. It will ask whether you think there should be a bill of rights and what rights you feel should or shouldn’t be included. It will also ask you about your views on what values or ideas you would like to achieve for society here which could be set out within a preamble or introduction to a bill of rights.

 

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

Before you provide your views, you may want to 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:

 

Why should I get involved?

This is your chance to say what you think and how you feel.  By getting involved you’ll help to ensure that the Committee’s report reflects society across Northern Ireland. 

 

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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