Get Right About Rights

Christy Walsh tackles Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), Brian Gormally, for his focus on a Bill of Rights to the detriment of existing human rights standards. Christy Walsh is a long standing justice campaigner who continues to suffer a miscarriage of justice at the hands of the British micro minister for Justice, David Ford.

If only Mr Gormally would put as much effort into maintaining and strengthening existing human rights standards as he does on continuing to invest in what has been an absolute farce around a bill of rights.

Whether the UK retains the HRA 1998 or remains a contracting party to the ECHR hang in the balance. Suppose we allow the human rights protections we have to slip away for the figment of Mr Gormally's imagination about his idea of a bill of rights?

Many years ago I was the first and only one arguing that the ECHR was enshrined in the GFA but (contrary to Mr Gormally and others) a bill of rights is not. Fortunately, commentators over in GB and the Guardian Newspaper have in recent times picked up on my argument that the UK cannot breach the terms of the GFA by withdrawing from the ECHR. Unfortunately, CAJ somehow muddled it up by referring to scrapping the HRA 1998 which would have no relevance or impact upon the GFA.

The UK has no written constitution and any proposed bill of rights would have no more authority than any other piece of legislation - even if we glorify it like Mr Gormally would. He refers to the time and money expended by the government's human rights agency as if that was a meaningful exercise. It was not. The NIHRC chased bubbles as a means of avoiding facing up to the human rights deficit created during the Conflict and beyond.

The NIHRC was nothing more than an elite diners club for academics and the privileged well intentioned; as Unionists have correctly complained, the NIHRC spend 98% of its budget on itself. The CAJ's unshakable tolerance contributes to the NIHRC spending a miserable 2-3% of its annual budget on any actual human rights case work.

The NIHRC is a statutory body and not an NGO - thus it can be judicially reviewed when it acts in ultra vires just like any other government agency can when they fail to do their job as legislation requires of them. The potential to advance human rights protections and standards are all too often squandered because of ill-conceived ideas and pet missions.

Victims of human rights violations are sick and tired of the prolonged suffering they endure because of wasted time, money and effort over worthless projects in preference of bolstering what is already available. Victims of human rights abuse need what are real and meaningful and not the likes of Mr Gormally continuing to chase butterflies because his ego will not allow him to admit that the CAJ got it wrong.

Mr Gormally's bluster is nothing more than an attempt to sound like he is saying something meaningful or relevant lest we forget he is there.


  1. While less than fully au fait with the issues here I always recall the Bill Of Rights as being a Workers Party demand which to our Provisional ears seemed to reiterated ad nauseam. Our propaganda used to ridicule them for it. It would be worthwhile if Brian Gormally were to respond.

  2. It would be good to see him respond. Remember all the guffaw they said about the introduction of the Human Rights Act that it was special legislation that would not be touched by future governments -it is currently only just surviving. More importantly the UK could pull out of the Convention (a crutch to some extent on which Mr Gormally's proposed Bill of Rights would lean).

    Only those with a written Constitution can afford to reasonably consider implementing a bills of rights because bills of rights are protected by the Constitution and not on the whims of successive governments and legislators. That was my argument some 10 years ago. Not once have the architects and labourers of the NIHRC quint project Bill of Rights ever addressed the above reality about the relationship between a bill of rights, constitution or legislator. They squandered millions of pounds of tax payers money pursuing what at the outset could be seen as, to use a phrase from Mr Gormally's artcile "fantasy human rights".