Fifteen years ago today people in Northern Ireland took to the polls to vote in the Good Friday Agreement referendum. From an exceptionally high voter turn-out of 81.1% a resounding 71.1% voted in favour of the Agreement, with all of its provisions.
The Agreement was firmly anchored in human rights and equality and a key element in the realisation of a fairer society was a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which was to be enacted through Westminster legislation.
Fifteen years later many successes have been achieved, but we still do not have a Bill of Rights. The UK government uses a lack of political consensus in Northern Ireland as an excuse, when in reality they have done very little to achieve accord. It is time for the UK government to show leadership on this issue.
To mark today’s important anniversary a group of civil society organisations have published an open letter calling on the UK Government to advance the long-overdue Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
Fiona McCausland, chairperson of the Human Rights Consortium, said:
“When the public voted for the agreement 15 years ago today, they voted for all of the agreement, not just part of it. Human rights are part of the normal checks and balances of any healthy democracy. In a society that has come through so much and still remains divided they become all the more important. “
The letter is reproduced below.
22nd May 2013
Fifteen years ago today the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was overwhelmingly approved by a referendum of the people.
It heralded the beginning of the end to conflict and a start to a new society in Northern Ireland.
There have been many positive developments since that day, but the full promise of the Agreement has yet to be delivered.
As with many societies emerging from conflict, a Bill of Rights was part of Northern Ireland’s peace agreement.
This Bill of Rights was intended, via Westminster legislation, to help secure the peace by protecting the rights of everyone.
As events in Northern Ireland continue to show, the need to build a just and peaceful society is as important as ever.
Fifteen years on, the UK government has still not fully implemented the Agreement.
It has still not legislated for the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
We call on the UK Government to secure the peace, deliver on its Agreement commitments and legislate for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights.
Children’s Law Centre
Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)
Disabled Police Officers Association
Human Rights Consortium
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)
The National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI)
North-West Community Network
Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM)
Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA)
Relatives For Justice
Rural Community Network
Save the Children
Unite the Union
WAVE Trauma Centre
Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland