Human rights and equality protections in Northern Ireland

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2018 National Delegate Conference
27 February 2018

In the light of the recent political difficulties on the restoration of devolved Government in Northern Ireland we face the threat of direct rule via the Tories, some of whom are disgracefully trying to dismiss the Good Friday Agreement for their own ends.

It is fair to say that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want devolution to work. To be able to hold Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Ministers to account is an important part of the democratic process. Conference will be aware that there is a major obstacle that we in Northern Ireland need to overcome to help restore devolution. One of the key parties in the negotiations has set its mind against equality and human rights for all. It has put this in its past manifestos and has stated that the ‘status quo’ is important to protect only one section of our population. In fact the opposite is true and this constant battle on equality and human rights is deepening poverty and division, most particularly for working-class people.

Equality and human rights are not under the ownership of any political party in Northern Ireland, but are universal rights which have been at the core of the trade union movement’s demands for over a century.

Conference reaffirms its commitment to work wherever it can for the realisation of rights in Northern Ireland, the restoration of devolved Government within a framework of equality and human rights, and the protection of the peace process.

Should direct rule be imposed, there can be no more ambiguity from the UK Government, whether it be Tory, Labour or a coalition. It must immediately fulfil its obligations to bring forward an inclusive, enforceable Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, which will include the obligations to immediately legislate on issues including an Irish Language Act, abortion rights and equal marriage, all of which are among the most politically contentious issues in our society, but which inside a human rights framework are removed from party political obstruction.