David and the pesky Human Rights Act

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So David Cameron’s first act as newly-elected British Prime Minister – after of course the obligatory one-nation-Tory PM/prayer to St Francis – is to look to scrap the Human Rights Act. Why’s that? Well Britain never did like them foreigners having the last say. British justice was famed throughout the world for its even-handedness and reliability. To allow individuals or others to appeal to a higher authority in Europe just plain went against the grain. To subscribe to it was as good as to say that somebody needed to keep an eye on British justice. But could it be  that there might be a need to keep an eye on British justice? The case of the 14 ‘hooded men’ who were subjected to torture techniques during internment in 1971 think there is. The family of Pat Finucane might think there is. But David Cameron begs to differ.

Unfortunately for him, he’s going to face a triangle of opposition. Here in our little twisted corner, the CAJ has  pointed out to the British that if they do scrap the Human Rights Act they’ll be in breach of an international treaty, to wit the Good  Friday Agreement: that’s because the GFA was an international treaty, signed b Britain, guaranteeing citizens here “direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the convention, including power for the courts to overrule assembly legislation on the grounds of inconsistency”. To scrap the Human Rights provision would make Britain “an international outlaw”.

And what about Scotland? They have declared  that they are tooth-and-nail opposed to it. And Wales has also indicated that it will resist its removal.

Which places David Cameron, poor man, in an unenviable position. If he fails to scrap the Human Rights agreement, he’ll have failed in the first thing his new government has set out to do. Britain will be shown to be subject to European law, and that’s not good with an EU referendum on the horizon. If he succeeds in getting rid of the Human Rights provision, he’ll have further alienated the north of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The resentment will be palpable and the chains that hold the United Kingdom together will have been significantly loosened. Maybe terminally.

Uneasy lies the head on the pillow in No 10 Downing Street. Tighten your seat-belts.

17 Responses to David and the pesky Human Rights Act

  1. neill May 13, 2015 at 9:30 am #

    I am completely sure that our Prime minister is lying in bed at night in a state of pensive fear wondering what he can do about the CAJ.

    David Cameron is well within his rights at trying to attempt to change the ridiculous human rights industry.

    As for CAJ well they are far more interested in the rights of criminals and terrorists than defending the rights of the wronged.

    • Ryan May 13, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

      Neill, are you saying all those shot dead or injured by the British Army/Loyalists/RUC were criminals and terrorists? That’s not even including the victims of British state collusion or their own terror gangs: the MRF and FRU.

      Oh be in no doubt Neill your Prime Minister is worried about organisations like CAJ and Relatives For Justice because it certainly wont be good for Britain and its reputation if the facts got out that the very state was involved in the murder of its own civilians, deliberately obstructing justice and colluding with loyalist terrorists. Those kind of activities make Britain look more like a crackpot dictator ruled African state, not a state that signed up to human rights and fairness/equality for all. Of course, keep quiet that Catholics are still forbidden from being head of state due to the Act of Settlement law.

      How modern and progressive the UK sounds….I can see why your so desperate to remain part of it Neill…..

      • neill May 14, 2015 at 9:14 am #

        Ryan grow up David Cameron is not scared in the slightest of CAJ and Relatives for justice and why would he be as you and many others have said we have to forgive and forget what happened in the past. Without being cold about it very few people in the world care about our little squalid conflict and sadly wish us to get on with it

        As for your leader having a go at human rights abuses by the state well good grief there is a man who would know a lot about that just ask his immediate family..

        What I wanted to know was that in your experience, are Unionist voters here in NI more likely to favour a Tory government? Do you think Unionists in NI see themselves as being more aligned with the right in Britain, rather than the left?

        I would be interested to hear your perspective on this.
        That is a good question very few people in this country are right wing they believe the state should provide everything and the way we always bang on for extra money from England or Ireland I find frankly embarrassing when it comes to recent immigration I suspect there is little difference between unionists or nationalists.

        I also suspect its not possible to construct an argument that unionists are rightwing and nationalists are left wing as I know personally many catholics can be to the right of Genghis Khan!. Its my clear belief that Nationalist and Unionist communities when you look closely are more alike than many would imagine the best example would be the similar stance taken between the socially conservative policies of the DUP and the socially conservative policies of the conservative wing of the Nationalist side I suspect they have much in common.

        • Jude Collins May 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

          Neill – it’s a class thing in many instances. You’re right about the two right-wings; but I’d still say in general nationalist/republican communities tend to be a bit (I said ‘a BIT’) less racist/homophobic, etc. A generalisation but that said, true, I think.

        • RJC May 14, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

          Thanks Neill. I think the waters of left and right can often become muddied in these parts – particularly with issues like Israel/Palestine etc which seems to then become a sectarian issue in Northern Ireland.

          You’re not wrong re some Catholics being to the right of Genghis Khan – see the current ‘NO’ campaign in the south for an example of this.

          I’d like to think that up here our similarities far outweigh our differences – culturally, politically, socially etc. In political terms, the ongoing austerity issue seems to be a bit of a sticking point between SF and the DUP. I feel very sad for East Belfast right now, and suspect that the shortsightedness of the DUP may well run it into the ground.

          Ach, I’m just waffling now…

    • Larry Murphy May 13, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

      Neill – When will you people ever learn? Human Rights are important.

      “At the time, people in England did not believe the story that I came back with nor did they care. Sadly, this has been their general attitude ever since. Only a few years later — a year or so even before the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association came into being — I published an article stating that unless the Westminster government addressed the abuses and discriminatory regime in the six counties then, by the turn of the decade matters would erupt into a bloody urban guerrilla war. This was not to say that I was politically clever. Anyone who been to Belfast could have made the same prediction.

      It has been hard to convince people in this country that I am now talking of a period five years before the date when ‘popular history’ now asserts that the recent ‘troubles’ started.

      When the unionists try to convince people that during this time they ruled over a ‘democratic’ corner of the UK, they are blatant liars and hypocrites.It was this 1964 experience that opened my eyes.

      I was in the anti-apartheid movement at the time. With my eyes now open about Stormont I read with horror the text of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland), 1922, by which the six counties had been ruled by since it had come into being. It was an Act which Adolf Hitler had admired in 1933 and then regretted he did not have the power to introduce similar legislation in Germany. It was an Act which South African leaders also admired.

      In April, 1963, when the South African minister of justice, Belthazar Johannes Vorster (1915-1983) was introducing some new apartheid laws (The Coercion Bill) he publicly stated that he “would be willing to exchange all the legislation of this sort for one clause of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Act”.

      ……”Thus Northern Ireland was a festering boil that had either to be lanced or erupt. The UK parliament steadfastly refused to apply the lance to the boil. The eruption was inevitable.”

      Peter Berresford Ellis

    • RJC May 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

      Not going to have a go at you for those comments Neill, only to say that the thing about human rights is that they protect humans. That means everybody who is a human. As the bould Madiba said ‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’.

      But I digress…

      What I wanted to know was that in your experience, are Unionist voters here in NI more likely to favour a Tory government? Do you think Unionists in NI see themselves as being more aligned with the right in Britain, rather than the left?

      I would be interested to hear your perspective on this.

  2. Iolar May 13, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Is there a mandate for Tory policies in the north of Ireland?

    The Tory policy of privatisation by stealth is now redundant. The Tories are now quite clear about plans to dismantle the National Health Service. The Tories wish to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act and interfere with the right to withdraw labour in industrial disputes. The evidence for a Tory mandate on this part of the island is as follows:

    Name Political Party Votes %

    Johnny Andrews Tory (Strangford) 2,167 6.4

    Hamish Badenoch Tory (Foyle) 132 0.4

    Amandeep Singh Bhogal Tory (Upper Bann) 201 0.4

    Mark Brotherston Tory (North Down) 1,593 4.4

    Felicity Buchan Tory (South Down) 318 0.7

    Liz St Clair-Legge Tory (East Derry) 422 1.2

    Alan Dunlop Tory (South Antrim) 415 1.1

    Carol Freeman Tory (North Antrim) 368 0.9

    Claire-Louise Leyland Tory (West Tyrone) 169 0.4

    Ben Manton Tory (South Belfast) 582 1.5

    Lucille Nicholson Tory (Mid Ulster) 120 0.3

    Helen Osborne Tory (Lagan Valley) 654 1.6

    Robert Rigby Tory (Newry & Armagh) 210 0.4

    Paul Shea Tory (West Belfast) 34 0.1

    Alex Wilson Tory (East Antrim) 549 1.6

    Neil Wilson Tory (East Belfast) 1,121 2.8

    The Scottish National Party was elected with a definitive anti-austerity mandate and there are legal imperatives that have implications for devolved administrations. Article 7 (TEU) of the Lisbon Treaty gives the European council the power to strip a member state of its EU voting rights if it decides the state is in breach of the definition of Human Rights. This is EU law. Under devolution legislation, acts of the Scottish Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales and the N I Assembly must comply with the European convention and the 1998 Human Rights Act.

    There is no doubt about the content and implications of Tory policies. If the Tories do not have a mandate in the north of Ireland, it is time for MLA’s to be explicit in relation to austerity policies, proposed changes to the 1998 Human Rights Act and industrial legislation.

  3. John Patton May 13, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    Similar difficult ies await in discussions to change UK’s relationship with Europe. Mobility of Labour is a fundamental precept to membership and is not open to discussion; it defines membership. However, the popular press – Daily Mail etc get into a lather about those Romanians coming over and taking our jobs…….As with Human Rights Act, the Celtic Nations are emphatically pro-Europe. Cameron has a fight on his hands

  4. John Patton May 13, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    Though not deliberately stated, one of the implications utilised by the Tories to undermine the Human Rights Act, is by drilling in that it implements the “European Convention on Human Rights”. This is correct, but to those not informed otherwise, it would be assumed that the “European Convention” is under the European Union.

    Over the past five years, the European Union has become some kind of synonym to “archenemy of Britain”. The malice towards the EU would therefore pass on to the European Convention on Human Rights by default.

    Whatever you think of the EU, the fact is that the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act, actually have no semblance to the EU.

    The European Convention on Human Rights is a treaty under the Council of Europe- a completely separate organisation which has 47 member states (unlike the smaller EU’s 28).

    This means, even if we leave the EU, we are bound by the ECHR. Even if we repeal the HRA, we are bound by the ECHR. And repealing the HRA would not “send a blow to the EU”, it would only send a blow to our fundamental human rights.

    Also, the Strasbourg court for the ECHR is “subsidiary” to our courts, so no one is “controlling” us. Furthermore, the ECHR was originally drafted by Britons after World War II. It practically is a “British” Bill of Rights.

    The only reason the government are so bent on removing its implementation mechanism, is because it holds them accountable to any breach of our fundamental human rights. Right or left wing, surely you value your human rights.

  5. Perkin Warbeck May 13, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Surprised to read of the plans of the King of Tory Island (the other one) to scrap the Human Rights Act, A Mhaistir,Ionuin Blog.

    For one had failed to read any title tattle to that effect in T.U.T., our revered paper of record.Or indeed, to hear ditto on its broadcasting wing,the equally revered for its record keeping, RTE. But then, in fairness,going f., we down here had a much more touchy feelish kinda topic to dealish with.than what some mere middle-aged man in rented accommodation in London has to say in his mealish mouthed way..

    A topic which had our, erm, nation holding its breath (or as one wag put it: Hibernia holds its Halitosis !). Yes, indeed, the crucial topic of what decision a young acne-vishaged teenager in the lonely isholation of his modesht villa in Ashton (which one understands is located in the Dark Satanic Mileshian midlands).even as he ponders this profound dilemma:

    A similar dilemma which once addled the head of the equally cerebral and spindle-shanked Captain MacMorrish in the drama of Hank V. And who once skippered West Stratford Albion to abject failure in their distinctive claret and more claret..

    -What ish my nation?Ish a villain and a beshterd and a knave and a rashcal. What ish my nation? Who shpeaks of my nation?

    Well, The Unionist Times, for starters, Jack Grealish (for it ish he !).

    But of course it was not the only three-tissue issue of importance which our paper of record concerned itself with. Take yesterday’s letters’ to the editor’s page which was embellished with an epistle from the any thing but puny quill of (gasp) Lord Kilclooney.

    Writing as a ‘non-party cross-bencher’ Kilclooney (not to be confused with near-namesake George) from the rarefied barrio of the House of Lords in Westminster: the non-sectarian punch line from the letter went as follows,fellows: ‘significantly, with no longer any allegations of discrimination, the Catholic population is increasingly at ease in Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom’.

    So, there you have it. Anyone disagreeing with that superb summing up of the status q. north of the Black Sow’s Dyke would no doubt also disagree with the motto on John-boy’s (for it is he !) escutcheon: ‘A While for Werk and a While fer Spoartin’.

    Even Perkie’s inner MOT inspector could not have phrased it better or more succinctly.

    Coincidentally, this eminent epistle in the Tuesday edish (though obviously composed in the Monday Club) appears cheek by, erm, jowl with another letter which had a certain connection of an aryan, oops, avian connection.

    From another scribe of no less eminence,one, Emer O;Kelly, of the sister paper, the Sunday Dependent. Her objective subject was the obituary of her actress sister,Aideen:

    ‘She was indeed sent by Ernest Blythe to the Aran Islands to learn Irish but the immersion didn’t take: she remained ignorant of the language. Witnessing as a child her reaction tothe Blythe edict, I suspect her reaction may have been deliberate !’: ‘

    The coincidence comes about, not just because Sister Emer was penning her piece from the House of Ladies who Lunch, but because Lord K had appeared in a recent TG4 documentary of the same blythe spirit, bird who never was: ‘The Unimportance of Having Been Ernest’.

    (His measured contribution in the lordly l. of the Q’s English was duly dubbed into money-squandering erse).

    A cursory perusal of the lady-like letter published c. by jowl with his own would have reinforced Lord K’s concrete conviction of the home from homeliness of The Unionist Times.

    For the indestructible aristocrat would have recognised precisely why Ernist Blyhe is so demonised in the Free Southern Stateen. For his cackled comment on being asked did he, Ernest B, regret the 77 Republicans whom he was instrumental in having been put against the wall at dawn during the Civil War? Not at all, not at all, he croaked, if I regret anything it’s that we didn’t put a lot more them in front of the firing squad. Heh,heh,heh’.

    Well, no.

    The tuppence halfpenny he scissored off the Old Age Pension as Min of Fin in the blueshirt red pencil cabinet.? Partly.

    But,much, much more than that, the fact that the tried to see to it that the leprechaun got a fair shake down in the, erm, National Theatre of Ireland. Imagine ! The nerve of this runner-in from the orange groves of Norneverland !

    And, coincidentally – the c-word once again ! – there appeared a must-read piece from the former theatre critic most deserving of praise for heaping this specific opprobrium on the posthumous head of the somewhat less than blythe spirit/ ean corr o chulra Aontachta.

    Take a curtain bow, Fintan O’Toole (mar is e ata ann !).

    Of course his Tuesday column is, de facto, a must-read piece but yesterday’s heading made it a must, must read: ‘Keep your drawers on and pray !’.

    Oooh, Finny, you are a funny one !

    Just a snippet will do, to explain why exactly this, incisive piece is such a, erm, Gama changer in the Referendum de dum to come:

    – ‘I had a vasectomy 25 years ago. So our marriage has ‘not been open to life’ for a quarter of a century. We’re not a proper family’.


    Such courage,.such indominatibility, such Irishry.

    Let us now hail,once again,he who has explored the darker continents of the human mind for those of us of lesser intellect..

    All hail the Vasco da Gama of Vasectomy.

    In Perkie’s modest case he has been humbled to fess up – at last – to his own more modest operation.

    Let one now admit to being, erm, The Big Lobowski of Lobotomy.

  6. Ryan May 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm #

    Breaching the Good Friday Agreement, scrapping Human Rights laws, bringing in massive cuts, etc I really don’t see how Sinn Fein are going to keep Stormont going due to the Conservatives. SF has promised to not implement the cuts, they were depending on Labour getting elected and getting into government but that didn’t happen. Now the Conservatives are back, with a majority this time and even bigger cuts than first planned are looming. It would be terrible for SF to reel back and implement exactly what they promised they wouldn’t. The electorate in the South wont be blind to this either.

    If SF implement the cuts, they can forget about having a brilliant election next year in the South and maybe even here in the North at Assembly elections. SF’s right wing opponents wont be the only ones to make a story of SF’s U-turn. There is a growing left wing movement in the form of groups like People before Profit who will gain voters because of this. Gerry Carroll in West Belfast got over 6,000 votes in the election last week, that’s almost double the SDLP’s vote here.

    Sinn Fein has to be very careful. They should remember its voters is its first priority and going back on commitments/promises will greatly damage them. People aren’t stupid.

    Will Stormont collapse over welfare reform? I think it maybe will. I’d rather see Stormont collapse than Sinn Fein’s voter base, put it that way…..

    • ANOTHER JUDE May 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

      Totally agree, if the Tories try to change the GFA it is imperative that Sinn Féin walk away from Stormont, people voted for them because they were principled, people supported the peace process, it is one thing for them to lie down and allow the Unionists to walk over them, it would be totally wrong for them to let the British waive the rules again.

  7. ANOTHER JUDE May 13, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    Unionists will not give a hoot if Cameron removes the HRA, they think all rights here stem from the barrel of a British gun, if you don`t like it, tough. The Tories, like Labour and the other British political parties, have no mandate here. Incidentally Jude, following on from your recent run in with the chap who owned the rights to that photo of the Mighty Dodds, have you cleared it with the BBC to allow you to use an image from their children`s programme, In The Night Garden?

  8. PeadarW. May 13, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    Looks like Cameron is carrying on from Thatcher.
    I don’t have much sympathy with the Brits,they deserve all they get?

    • Jude Collins May 14, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      Yes, but you’ll be getting it too, PeadarW – if you live our little north-eastern stateen…

  9. Cal May 13, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Well said, Ryan.