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Letter To David Cameron, Prime Minister, United Kingdom

On Tuesday, October 12, Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-Queens, The Bronx), a co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs in the U.S. House of Representatives, and 20 Members of Congress, sent a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to support the creation of an inclusive Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

"In the months ahead, we urge you to support an inclusive, strong Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement and advanced in the St. Andrews agreement. A strong Bill of Rights that protects against the abuses of the past and provides for the hopes of the future can become a healing, unifying and inspirational document for everyone in Northern Ireland," the Members wrote in the letter.

"To the people of the North, who have lived through a tumultuous history, a dedicated Bill of Rights is much more than a set of provisions on a piece of paper. A Bill of Rights will help ensure that the abuses of the past are never repeated, while continuing the process of creating a more peaceful future. It is a much deserved promise of equality and justice," added Congressman Crowley.

First envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement and later advanced in the St. Andrews Agreement, a dedicated Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland will ensure that human rights for all people are protected in law and practice. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), an independent public agency, was charged with consulting with the people of Northern Ireland in compiling a list of rights that also reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, to supplement those in the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite specific mention of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in both the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement, progress has been piecemeal since December 2008.

A dedicated Bill of Rights has widespread support in Northern Ireland. A recent poll conducted by the Human Rights Consortium in Northern Ireland found that that 81 percent of people in Northern Ireland believe a Bill of Rights is either very important or quite important (http://blog.billofrightsni.org/misc/Poll-web-results.pdf).

The full text of the letter to Prime Minister Cameron is below:

Dear Prime Minister Cameron,

We have closely followed the implementation of the peace process in Northern Ireland for many years. We strongly welcomed the recent progress made in Hillsborough Castle Agreement, as well as the subsequent vote in the Assembly. The devolution of policing and justice represents an integral step forward in the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the months ahead, we urge you to support an inclusive, strong Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland as envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement and advanced in the St. Andrews agreement. This coming December 10th, International Human Rights Day, represents the two-year anniversary of date that the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission presented its plan for a Northern Ireland Bill of Rights, and we believe that action in this direction should be taken by that time.

Protection of human rights was central to the Good Friday Agreement. As a society in transition from conflict to a more peaceful and shared future, a common framework of rights and values to which all can subscribe will play an essential role in sustaining the political advances already achieved. The Good Friday Agreement recognized the need to address a range of rights that had previously been insufficiently protected.

We believe that proposals for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland should build on -- and not roll back -- existing protections. They should also reflect more substantively the high levels of cross community support that exist for an inclusive and comprehensive Bill of Rights, and ensure greater protections for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society.

The protection of human rights and equality as part of a shared and peaceful future will send a message to everyone in Northern Ireland that there cannot and will not be any return to the past.

We in the United States of America share the belief in the importance of a strong constitutional framework that includes the protection of fundamental rights and values. A strong Bill of Rights that protects against the abuses of the past and provides for the hopes of the future can become a healing, unifying and inspirational document for everyone in Northern Ireland.

We urge that you work to ensure that the very real concerns, hopes and expectations of the people of Northern Ireland are reflected in a broad, strong set of rights. We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley
Eliot. L Engel
Richard E. Neal
Peter T. King
Tim Holden
Gary L. Ackerman
Bill Delahunt
Carolyn B. Maloney
Maurice D. Hinchey
Jim McDermott
Jerry F. Costello
Donald M. Payne
Edolphus Towns
Brian Higgins
Edward J. Markey
Russ Carnahan
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Michael A. Arcuri
James P. Moran
Michael E. Capuano
James P. McGovern


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