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18 February 2010 Edition

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Bill of Rights consultation document

The British Government’s consultation on a proposed Bill of Rights is an insult that ignores the advice of all those who spent years seeking agreement on what rights and protections the Bill should contain, Sinn Féin Equality and Human Rights spokesperson Martina Anderson said this week.
The Foyle MLA was speaking after she met with Monica McWilliams, chief commissioner from the Human Rights Commission, and the former international Chair of the Bill of Rights Forum, Professor Chris Sidoti. Anderson was accompanied by her party colleagues, Education Minister Caitríona Ruane and Vincent Parker, Sinn Féin Head of Equality and Human Rights.
“It was clear from our discussions that the Commission and the former International Chair of the forum share our concern and frustration at how their advice was effectively binned by the British Government,” said Anderson.
“The NIO consultation has chosen to blatantly ignore the advice from both the Bill of Rights Forum and the Human Rights Commission that social and economic rights and protections must be central to any Bill of Rights for the North.
“This disrespectful disregard of the Bill of Rights forum report and the Human Rights Commission advice is an insult to all those from many sectors of society who invested so much time and effort within this process over the past eleven years.
“The Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland is a key unfulfilled commitment arising from the Good Friday Agreement.
“Sinn Féin is determined to ensure that we get a strong and effective Bill which contains socio-economic protections and equality at its core.”
“This is absolutely crucial because structural socio-economic discriminations and inequalities were contributing factors to the conflict here, not least on issues such as employment and housing. The British Government oversaw this regime, and has systematically failed to tackle the structural inequalities at the heart of the six counties.
“The only conclusion is that the British Government did not enter into this process with any serious intention of producing a Bill of Rights that would be acceptable to those across all sectors of the community that want a strong and enforceable Bill of Rights.
“The British Government must not be allowed to continue to evade their responsibilities in relation to equality and human rights by undermining this process.”

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