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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 results report can now be read at:

http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/assembly-business/committees/2017-2022/ad-hoc-committee-on-a-bill-of-rights/research-papers-2020/

Hopefully you will be aware that the next stage of the process, to capture more in-depth feedback on this topic, has been running since late March.   To ensure that the Committee hears from a diverse range of voices, a series of stakeholder events are being hosted, finishing at the end of April 2021.   We are mailing directly to contacts and local charities so forgive us if you receive any double posting, but we feel it is important everyone has a chance to express their views.

We have several events happening over the next two weeks and want to be sure no-one misses out on this opportunity.  We are therefore asking you to share this message with your members and associates as you did with the survey, most especially promoting the event for black, ethnic and minority communities on Wed 28th April from 18:30 – 20:30.  This would be most appreciated.  However please feel free to attend or promote ANY event that is relevant to you or your members.

If you or those you represent would like to participate in any of these online discussions please ask them to email engagement@niassembly.gov.uk, stating the name of the event you/they wish to attend.

Events have been based broadly around section 75 groups, however, if you feel you do not represent one of these groups please attend the general public event.

Timetable of events*

Bill of Rights Stakeholder Events
April
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 (being run by Positive Futures, Mencap and Now group)
Tue

27/4

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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