Our colleagues at CAJ (Committee on the Administration of Justice) present their own take on that Assembly debate where a number of MLAs chose to attack voluntary sector groups and human rights campaigners.
CAJ's tempered but robust defence of their and others' work for an inclusive Bill of Rights is well worth a read.
Presented on the front page of the latest edition of their newsletter, Just News, the article takes aim at some unionist politicians for their own failings in explaining human rights to their constituency and at Prof Chris Sidoti, the Bill of Rights Forum chairperson, for "buying in" to the whole "two communities" approach to the Bill of Rights. As the article points out, "disability, poverty and age are not the prerogative of one community."
Elsewhere in this edition of Just News, a more positive picture is painted of the prospects for the Bill of Rights, in an extended article by Kevin Hanratty and Louise McNicholl of the Human Rights Consortium, the campaigning coalition in which Amnesty plays a leading role. The article reflects on the recent conference (which I had the privilege of helping to chair), featuring former South African government minister Prof Kader Asmal and many of the key actors involved in shaping Bill of Rights proposals.
In light of the negative Assembly debate, it is perhaps worth a moment to savour and consider the words of Prof Asmal at the conference:
"A Bill of Rights is not a matter for blacks or whites, Catholics or Protestants. It is important to recognise that it is for the entire people of Northern Ireland and that no one is going to be excluded and no one can have a triumphalist approach to the Bill of Rights."
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