Citizens – in strict legal terms ‘subjects’ of Her Majesty – living in Northern Ireland should realise that in living here they give up many fundamental rights enjoyed elsewhere in these islands, in fact in many parts of the world.
Here’s a list of some of the human rights denied, but by no means all (feel free to add):
- Democratic rights – the NI population are prohibited from electing the government of the UK (or of Ireland). Broadly speaking, most of those who vote vote according to their religion for local sectarian-based parties. Major British political parties – who form the UK government – boycott Northern Ireland*. NB: Currently NI has no devolved administration and the UK government refuses to govern directly leaving NI in a state of democratic limbo.
- Party political donations are kept secret unlike in the rest of the UK. So the people in NI have no means of knowing who funds the party they vote for and what bearing that funding may have on the party’s behaviour. Is the party representing its voters or its major funders? It’s a secret society.
- Age discrimination is still legal on goods and services because the Equality Act 2010 was never applied to NI. You can legally be denied services of any kind on the basis of your age. This is not the case in Britain or Ireland.
- Abortion is illegal in NI under most circumstances. Present law dates to 1861. Women have to travel to Britain or – in the near future – to the Republic.
- Equal marriage is still illegal, contrary to the rest of the UK and Ireland. Homosexuality was not decriminalised in Northern Ireland until 1981 – fourteen years after Britain – and then only after a private citizen appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in spite of NI being governed by direct rule from London at the time – where homosexuality had long been decriminalised. Will a private citizen have to repeat this process for abortion or equal marriage? This how things get done in feudal Northern Ireland. In the Middle Ages people appealed to the monarch.
- Language rights – the Irish language and Ulster-Scots are not given official recognition and protection unlike Scots Gaelic in Scotland and Welsh in Wales.
London has historically always governed Ireland – north and south – differently from all other parts of the ‘United Kingdom’. The union created in 1922 between Northern Ireland and Britain did nothing to change this, in spite of unionists at the time and since demanding ‘equal citizenship’. One hundred years on this status of a ‘place apart’ has not changed.
The cumulative affect of this comprehensive denial of rights in Northern Ireland is to leave this tiny statelet trapped in a feudal time warp; marginalised on the periphery of both Britain and Ireland. Northern Ireland citizens/subjects are forced to spectate on the rights of others.
It seems to me that this is the price of the union with Britain.
Would these rights be denied in a united Ireland?
The modern republic of Ireland – while by no means perfect – now in 2018 enjoys all the rights denied to Northern Ireland, having just last week voted to legalise abortion by a landslide.
Is it time for northern Protestants to abandon their long held belief that the union is their best protection. Protection against what?
* Since 1990 the British Conservative Party contests some Northern Ireland constituencies – only 7 (predominantly Protestant) out of 18 at the last general election. For equal democratic rights to be applied to NI, all constituencies must be contested as is the practice in England Scotland and Wales.