The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has just produced a six-page leaflet about a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and this has been distributed as a 'supplement' in daily newspapers. The supplement states that:
The proposal for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was a key commitment of the 1998 Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
Meanwhile, according to Newton Emerson in the Irish News today, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Consortium is carrying out a telephone poll and has distributed a pre-printed reply to the Bill of Rights consultation exercise which claims:
Under the Agreement we should have one.
Both organisations, one a public body and the other a lobby group, claim that a Bill of Rights was a commitment in the Belfast Agreement. In fact the Belfast Agreement says no such thing.
The Agreement refers to 'the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and any Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland supplementing it'. That wording is very particular and contemplates the possibility of a Bill of Rights but it does not constitute a commitment, never mind a 'key commitment'.
There is a long tradition of human rights commitments in the British Isles, including the Bill of Rights that arose from the Glorious Revolution. Moreover the ideas of the Scottish Enlightment, through the teaching of the Ulster-born philosopher Francis Hutcheson, shaped the American concept of human rights and liberties. However in recent years we have seen the emergence in Northern Ireland of a 'human rights sector' or 'human rights industry' dominated by the far-left and by Irish nationalists, who use 'human rights' to further their own political agendas. In so doing they damage the cause of genuine human rights.