The Lallands Peat Worrier has written a lengthy post excoriating the Conservative Party in Britain following prime minister David Cameron’s suggestion that a future Tory administration in London might withdraw the country from the remit of the European Convention on Human Rights or ECHR. This international judicial treaty is enormously unpopular on the right-wing of British politics and media so pandering to that sentiment in a generally Europhobic country is something of an electoral no-brainer. LPW angrily characterises those supporting the proposals as “ utter scumbags”. The problem for the “scumbags” is Britain’s commitment to the ECHR as part of the British-administrated justice system in the north-east of Ireland, and by extension Britain itself, through the all-party Belfast Agreement of 1998:
“United Kingdom Legislation
2. The British Government will complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency.
4. The new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission… will be invited to consult and to advise on the scope for defining, in Westminster legislation, rights supplementary to those in the European Convention on Human Rights, to reflect the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, drawing as appropriate on international instruments and experience. These additional rights to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem, and – taken together with the ECHR – to constitute a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.”
Britain cannot derogate from the ECHR without partly reneging on the Belfast Agreement which would infuriate the Irish Nationalist community, the government of Ireland, etc. and almost certainly bring the ever-more shaky edifice at Stormont tumbling down. The only option would be for the British to single out “Northern Ireland” for separate legislation retaining its ECHR position, thereby proving that it really is a place apart. Which would of course infuriate the British Unionist community and again almost certainly bring the ever-more shaky edifice at Stormont tumbling down.
Would the Tories (and Lib Dems?) really sacrifice peace in the north-east of Ireland, and better relations between our two island nations, for electoral gains at home? Er, forget I said that…