Northern Ireland moves closer to a Bill of Rights

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The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has handed the British government its advice on the potential for a Bill of Rights for the province.

The commission will have been influenced by the recommendations of the Bill of Rights Forum.

The Coalition on Sexual Orientation (CoSO), a gay rights umbrella group in Northern Ireland, said that the Yogyakarta Principles were used to inform the drafing of the bill.

The principles were adopted by a meeting of experts in international law in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2006.

They set out a legal standard for how governments and other agencies should end violence, abuse and discrimination against sexual minorities.

Speaking after the handover of the commission’s report Paul Goggins, Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, said:

“I have today received statutory advice from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the potential for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

“I am grateful for the work that has gone into the preparation of this report and look forward to reading its recommendations.

“I recognise that there is a diverse range of opinion on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

“Once Government has had an opportunity to properly consider the advice we will consult publicly on this issue before deciding how to move forward.”

To raise awareness of the development of the Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland, CoSO hosted a series of successful events across the province to engage local LGBT communities and individuals in the process of drafting recommendations for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

Mairead McCafferty and James Knox, Co-Chairs of CoSO, told when the Bill of Rights Forum made its recommendations in March:

“We believe this is a significant step forward in the protection of LGBT people’s rights in Northern Ireland and ultimately has the potential to have a profound effect on the rights of LGBT people here and further afield, although we are still at the beginning of the process.

“As such Northern Ireland should be proud of acknowledging the need to protect, promote and fulfil the rights not only of LGBT people but potentially all our marginalised and disadvantaged communities.”