The 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement is the basis for the peace process in Northern Ireland. The Agreement was approved in referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by large majorities, and it was annexed to a treaty between the UK and Irish governments under which both governments agreed to support and implement the Agreement.
One of the cornerstones of the Good Friday Agreement is the principle of equivalence of rights and equality protections: for people living side by side in Northern Ireland and for people living in the entire island of Ireland. The Agreement guarantees that the people of Northern Ireland may choose to be Irish citizens or UK citizens or both, and that the rights accruing to both Irish and UK citizens in Northern Ireland will be equal. The Agreement also guarantees that the laws of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will provide equivalent rights and equality protections to all people in each jurisdiction.
No Regression, No Diminution and Equality of Rights Protections
The Brexit negotiations present an opportunity for the human rights and equality protections in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to be respected, and even strengthened. However the Brexit negotiations also pose a real risk of the peace process being undermined if its foundational principles of strong and equal human rights protections are ignored and if rights are diminished.
Since the ICCL’s establishment in 1976 the conflict in Northern Ireland and its impact on human rights in all parts of the island have been at the centre of our work. The ICCL is committed to playing its part to ensure that at this critical moment, human rights and equality protections are strengthened rather than diminished, and the peace process in Northern Ireland is supported.
Michael Farrell, Dr Colin Harvey and Liam Herrick, ‘Brexit and human rights’ The Irish Times (16 November 2017)
ICCL submission to the Seanad Special Select Committee on the UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union (27 April 2017)
Committee on the Administration of Justice, Brexit and Northern Ireland: A Briefing on Threats to the Peace Agreement (September 2017)
BrexitLawNI: A collaborative ESRC-funded research project examining the constitutional, conflict transformation, human rights and equality consequences of Brexit.
Chris McCrudden, ‘The Good Friday Agreement, Brexit, and Rights’ (Royal Irish Academy, British Academy Brexit Briefing, October 2017)
The ICCL has convened a coalition of organisations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to campaign for human rights to be put front and centre in the Brexit negotiations. On the 7 March 2018 the coalition sent a letter to the Irish Times.
Read the Coalition’s letter to the Irish Times
This was preceded by an open letter sent to all negotiating parties in December 2017 calling on them to give written guarantees that the final Brexit deal will respect the core principles of rights and equality that underpin the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
Read the coalition’s open letter to EU, UK and Irish Brexit negotiators.