Northern Ireland news

Whole of Ireland 'should have same human rights after Brexit'

 The offices of the Human Rights Commission in Belfast
Michael McHugh, Press Association

THE whole of Ireland should enjoy the same human rights protections after Brexit, an influential watchdog has said.

Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission said the potential loss of legal safeguards would represent a "regression".

The organisation's annual report said: "Twenty years since the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement human rights remain a vital underpinning of a new Northern Ireland.

"It has been one of our priority objectives to work alongside the other human rights and equality commissions of the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that those responsible for negotiating the terms of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union guarantee 'no diminution' of human rights and equality and a commitment to an 'equivalency' of protections on the island of Ireland."

The commission was established following the 1998 agreement and is funded by the British Government. It conducts its work independently and focuses on issues like access to abortion, homelessness and the status of refugees.

It warned against the impact on Northern Ireland of the potential loss of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and proposed withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg following Brexit.

David Russell, chief executive of the commission, said much of the detail surrounding the status of rights enshrined in EU law following next March's withdrawal remain unclear.

He added: "No one wants to stretch it that it would undermine the peace process but EU law does underpin the agreement."

He said the commission wanted to ensure there was no diminution of rights, given that one of the fundamental authorities of the EU would be removed from having domestic effect in the UK.

He also outlined a scenario where rights could only be protected through holding Irish citizenship, a problematic idea for unionists.

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