Michael Farrell warns of the risks posed to human rights and the peace process by Brexit.
Most of the discussion regarding Brexit’s impact on Ireland – north and south – has focused on economic issues, trade, and agriculture. But civil society groups believe that human rights and equality provisions are also at risk, says Michael Farrell.
The Good Friday Agreement
Under the Good Friday Agreement, signed 20 years ago in April 1998, the British government incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into the domestic law of Northern Ireland through the Human Rights Act. It also introduced the additional power to strike down legislation by the Stormont Assembly if it did not conform to the ECHR.
A new, strengthened Equality Commission was established to oppose discrimination in employment and the provision of goods and services on religious or political grounds, and also on gender, disability, or ethnic grounds. The agreement itself confirmed the right of all the people of Northern Ireland to hold British or Irish citizenship, or both, without distinction or discrimination between them, with the result that over 500,000 people from Northern Ireland now hold Irish passports.
Erosion of confidence
All these rights and equality protections have been crucial to creating confidence in Northern Ireland’s new structures, argues Michael Farrell, a consultant to the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee and a member of the board of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. Writing for the Gazette, Farrell explores current concerns about the human rights implications of Brexit, and analyses how the issue is being handled within the EU-UK negotiations.
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