Maginness: Human Rights Act repeal would spell chaos for Northern Ireland
Outlining the SDLP’s opposition to the plans, Mr Maginness said:
“Plans to repeal the Human Rights Act by this new Tory Government represent the beginnings of a siege on social justice. Elements within the Conservative Party are clearly dogmatically set on removing any element of our European identity and are willing to press the nuclear button in their pursuit of separatism.
“The repeal of the Human Rights Act would spell absolute chaos for Northern Ireland, particularly around some of our most sensitive and contentious legacy issues.
“As we approach the marching season we should take note of the fact that all Parades Commission determinations are subject to the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted through the Human Rights Act. Repealing the basic Human Rights framework would create a fundamental instability in the Commission’s determination guidelines. Furthermore, we have deep concerns that the DUP is attempting to influence the Tory ‘British Bill of Rights’ to create a ‘right to parade’ in exchange for support for their slim Commons majority. Parading continues to be a sensitive subject, indeed one that the DUP would not discuss during the Stormont House Talks. It cannot be horse traded and the SDLP will oppose any attempt to alter the settlement without cross party support.
“The European Court of Human Rights, through the Human Rights act, has had a substantial impact on peace in Northern Ireland. It is that court which has held successive British Governments to account for countless human rights violations, including the inhuman practices of the British Army here during the troubles. The Court must be allowed to continue to hold the British Government accountable for its Article 2 and Article 3 responsibilities here.
“Clearly the Tories, in their headlong rush to restrict civil liberties and eradicate the positive influence of Europe on our courts, have miscalculated their plans. The European Convention on Human Rights is interwoven into strands 1 and 3 of the Good Friday Agreement, a binding international treaty. It clearly states that the convention must be fully incorporated into law and that the courts can strike down any law of the Assembly which is incompatible with the convention. To breach that duty would be a violation of international law and is utterly unacceptable.
“The SDLP will oppose any attempted roll back on our human rights dispensation. We will also encourage the Irish Government to stand firm as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and to oppose such fundamental changes to the rights of citizens in the North. We will not relent and will not be found wanting in the protection of civil liberties, social justice and human rights.”