Belfast Agreement threatened by UK policy, commissioner says

Emily Logan claims proposed repeal of Human Rights Act will damage North accord

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission: ‘Repeal of the act would have negative consequences for rights’. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission: ‘Repeal of the act would have negative consequences for rights’. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

 

The Belfast Agreement will be damaged if the British government carries out its pre-election pledge to repeal the UK Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, an Oireachtas Committee will be told today.

Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, will voice her concerns at a meeting of the Good Friday Agreement Committee in Leinster House today.

Ms Logan, who will appear at the committee with representatives of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, will tell TDs and senators that human rights protections were a core feature, not an add-on, of the peace process and the negotiations around the agreement.

Two referendums were held, North and South, on May 22nd, 1998, in which voters gave their support to their respective governments to approve the Belfast Agreement.

Ms Logan said that as part of the agreement, the Irish Government committed to bring forward measures to ensure at least an equivalent protection of human rights in the South as in the North.

‘Safeguarding peace’

“The importance of promoting and protecting human rights is fundamental to safeguarding peace, respect and inclusion in communities across the island of Ireland,” she will say.

She will point out that Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan stated in his address to the Senate recently that “the formal human rights architecture, including the European Convention of Human Rights, is woven into the structures of the agreements”.

She will also point out that the Irish Government has demonstrated that it takes very seriously its responsibility to safeguard the Belfast Agreement.

“It is the hope of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission that this commitment will continue.”

She will add that, since 1998, there has been substantial progress in implementing the human rights elements of the Belfast Agreement.

“The Belfast Agreement laid down not only a mandate for both national human rights institutions, but also the mechanism to ensure strong cooperation between them.

“The agreement specifically envisaged the establishment of a joint committee with representatives of the two bodies, North and South, as a forum for considering human rights issues on the island of Ireland.”

The two bodies had their first official meeting in November 2001 and have engaged on several key issues and collaborated on all-island events.

The two have also participated in international networks of national human rights institutions.

They also proposed a charter of rights for everyone on the island of Ireland.