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Bill of Rights for North gaining support, MPs told

Resource type: News

Irish Times |


SUPPORT FOR a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland is rising, a committee of MPs has been told. Independent market research has found that 83 per cent of respondents believe it is important that Northern Ireland has its own Bill.

Calls for a Bill have been made since the Belfast Agreement in 1998 and many unionists and others are wary of separate provision for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Committee of MPs at Westminster was informed of the poll findings yesterday.

They were told that levels of support for a Bill had risen by 13 percentage points since the last market research in February, with both Protestants and Catholics backing the idea in large numbers.

Catholics, however, are more . supportive of the idea, with 85 per cent backing it. Some 81 per cent of Protestants say they agree.

The research, commissioned by the Human Rights Consortium, also revealed consistently high levels of support (96 to 97 per cent) for the inclusion of social and economic rights, such as the right to work, health, an adequate standard of living and accommodation, in a Bill of Rights.

Spokesman Kevin Hanratty from the Human Rights Consortium welcomed the new polling data: “We are delighted to be able to show the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that there is increasing support for a strong Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and crucially, that the support for the Bill is across both main communities here.”

Rights do not have a colour or a religion, he added, nor do they apply to one group of people more than another.

“Human rights are for everyone and a strong and enforceable Bill of Rights could be a step along the road to a more inclusive and equal Northern Ireland.

“In light of the recent sectarian and racist attacks here, the need for a Bill of Rights which protects everyone and that unites communities is all the more obvious. We hope that local politicians and the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will hear that voice, loud and clear. Further delays in delivering a Bill of Rights are not acceptable and we urge the Secretary of State to announce a public consultation on this issue immediately.”

The Church of Ireland Gazette, an independent publication which does not officially represent church views, has taken a strong editorial stance against a separate Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

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