Human rights key to peace and stability in North, says Flanagan

Serious concern about Conservative pledge to scrap UK’s Human Rights Act

Charlie Flanagan: will raise issue with Theresa Villiers

Charlie Flanagan: will raise issue with Theresa Villiers

 

The fundamental role of human rights in guaranteeing peace in Northern Ireland must be fully respected, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has warned. The statement comes amid serious concerns about the pledge by the Conservatives to scrap the UK’s Human Rights Act.

Charlie Flanagan is to raise the issue with Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers at their meeting next week and he said in the Seanad: “I will underline to her the importance which this Government attaches to human rights in the context of the Good Friday agreement.”

He said there was no legislation before the British parliament to repeal the Act but its legislative programme was due in the next few weeks. He was responding to Fine Gael Senator Hildegarde Naughton who expressed concern the new British government seemed to be committing to weakening the “act of trust” between the two governments, “though perhaps unintentionally”.

Commitments

Ms Naughton raised the issue after reports of the Government’s serious concern about the pledge by British prime minister David Cameron to scrap the Act which could breach the terms of the Belfast agreement.

Mr Flanagan said the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland law, predicated on the European Convention on Human Rights, “is one of the key principles underpinning the agreement”.

He added it was an obligation on the two governments as parties to an international agreement lodged with the UN. And it was a shared responsibility between the two governments in terms of the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland. He said the 1998 Belfast agreement was endorsed in referendums by the overwhelming majority of people on the island of Ireland.

Ms Naughton said one of the first rules of international law “is that any bilateral treaty means what the signatories say it does”.