One of the most striking outcomes of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement ("Agreement") was the extent to which the establishment of human rights institutions and mechanisms was brought center-stage into the shaping of the political settlement. The dynamic talks process that led to the signing of the Agreement resulted in an extensive range of obligations in regard to human rights on the part of the Irish and British governments, many of which were implemented very soon afterwards. Paragraph 10 of the "Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity" section of the Agreement makes mention of a trans-jurisdictional human rights initiative that would mimic the institutional arrangements provided for elsewhere in the Agreement. Specifically, it vests jurisdiction in a Joint Committee of the two Human Rights Commissions to "consider, among other matters, the possibility of establishing [an all-island] charter [of Rights], open to signature by all democratic political parties, reflecting and endorsing agreed measures for the protection of the fundamental rights of everyone living in the island of Ireland. But, despite the implications of such a potentially transformative constitutional proposal, to date, the Charter has been the subject of negligible political engagement in both jurisdictions. Undoubtedly, there are a number vital issues that must be considered in attempts to construct an all-island Charter of Rights, given the numerous potential models for its implementation. Accordingly, in order to place the matter in context, Part I of this Essay reviews the background to the clause in the Agreement which envisaged the Charter; Part II discusses the progress that has been made to date by the Joint Committee in fulfilling its mandate; and finally, Part III offers some tentative reflections for a roadmap ahead in the current political climate.
Suzanne Egan and Rachel Murray,
Casting a Cold Eye on the Origins and Development of an All-Island Charter of Rights,
34 Fordham Int'l L.J. 78
Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol34/iss1/3