The Implications of the Good Friday Agreement for UK Human-Rights Reform

Colin Murray (Newcastle), Aoife O’Donoghue (Durham) and Ben Warwick (Birmingham) have posted a working version of an article on the Belfast Agreement and human rights legislation in the UK. It will be published following edits and revisions in the Irish Yearbook of International Law (eds. Fiona de Londras and Siobhán Mullay).

The abstract is below, and the whole paper is open access here, but some of the key issues we address are:

  • Some of the history and background to rights in Northern Ireland
  • The status in international law of the Good Friday Agreement
  • The interplay of the devolution settlement and the Good Friday Agreement
  • The relationship between the UK’s Human Rights Act and the Good Friday Agreement
  • How various reform proposals interact with the Agreement
  • How reform proposals might make their way through the NI institutions (including some reflections on the implications of the recent Miller judgment)
  • International law solutions to some of the tensions between reform objectives and the Good Friday Agreement

Abstract:

Speculation is rife as to the impact of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement upon the Conservative Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. In the face of this speculation, the UK’s Conservative Government has provided little detail as to how UK human-rights reform will address the requirement for incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the Northern Ireland settlement. We therefore analyse the Agreement as both an international treaty and peace agreement and evaluate its interrelationship with the Human Rights Act and the Northern Ireland Act. Once the hyperbole surrounding the Agreement and its attendant domestic legislation is stripped away, the effects of the 1998 settlement are in some regards more extensive than has to date been recognised, but in other respects are less far-reaching than some of the Human Rights Act’s supporters claim. The picture that emerges from our analysis is of an intricately woven constitution dependent on devolution arrangements, peace agreements, and international relationships.

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