Statement on the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly

February 5, 2024

The Human Rights Consortium has welcomed the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and has called for the Executive to place the progression of human rights in Northern Ireland as a core priority of its work.

The two-year absence of the Assembly has compounded existing challenges and inequalities faced by people in Northern Ireland. The cost-of-living crisis, ongoing political uncertainty resulting from Brexit, the wake of the global Covid pandemic and government decisions that have failed to prioritise basic human dignity has seen unprecedented pressures on public services and the most vulnerable members of our society continuing to be at risk of deprivation and destitution.

New human rights standards were urgent and critical twenty-five years ago, but our recent financial and political circumstances have now made them an undeniable necessity. We need structural human rights-based reforms to ensure that we are not left to fall behind.

We must never again be forced to watch as our standards of protection continue to fall because of political disagreements and standoffs. We need to place legal duties at the heart of our governance which ensure a bare minimum threshold of rights for everyone – regardless of who is in power.

Evidence clearly shows that civil society, the public and most political parties in Northern Ireland believe that strong and inclusive human rights protections must be a core part of improving this society.

People clearly want to see our government help guarantee basic rights such as adequate healthcare, access to education and decent housing given how essential they are to our daily lives.

People want to see all public authorities structure their policies, decision-making and outcomes around basic human rights principles. Too often human rights have become optional extras rather than the core component of how decisions are made.

The outstanding human rights commitments made over a quarter of a century ago in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement sought to provide a new set of rights obligations and a safety net that everyone in society could rely on. But that vision was never realised.

We now need to see that vision become a reality and we call on all MLA’s, Ministers and political leaders to put the people of Northern Ireland first and prioritise the progression of human rights.

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