I asked a friend who is retired with a wide set of experiences in dealing with Human Rights, to give me his impression on the removal of the Human Rights Act from the UK, and what impact it would have.
He believes that repealing this Act which brings into domestic law the European Convention on Human Rights, will be a difficult job for the UK Government. Attempts here (N Ireland) to have a Bill of Rights expanding on those rights conferred by HRA are doomed in the short to medium term, despite the Good Friday obligations. He is part of the Human Rights Consortium and during the past 10 years or more since he started to attend, virtually no progress has been made.
He believes that Brexit will further complicate matters as various parts of these islands work out relationships between each other and the EU.
On the Consortium, they have encountered a lack of interest in the Bill of Rights, with the UK Government, the Irish Government and the NI Executive playing each other off. The DUP, mean as usual, don’t really have much of an idea about the value of rights, unless they are to their narrow benefit. It’s rather depressing!
He feels that one possibility is that Scotland, opposed to repeal or amendment of the HRA, might have its own Bill of Rights. It has vehemently opposed the “regressive” proposals for a British Bill of Rights.
On a case by case basis, any repeal of the HRA will be aired by the UK courts, ending up in the Supreme Court. The courts will not want to have to do what is essentially the work of Parliament. That relationship between Parliament, Government and Judiciary can be fractious at times, particularly here (N Ireland) where issues such as sexual orientation and abortion grab the attention of a very religious and conservative Attorney General.
N Ireland is still awaiting the reserved judgements in the two marriage cases and the Ashers appeal. And it looks like the current Attorney General in N Ireland is being very wide in his interpretation of his role, and there have been requests that he stand down or stop pursuing his own agenda which seems to definitely have a very select bias from my own and others observations.
As with all these things we will have to wait and see how things develop, but of one thing I am certain the removal of the current Human Rights Act will not be to our benefit, and I honestly believe that LGBT rights and other diversity groups will suffer if it is taken away.
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