The Agreement and devolved social security: a missed opportunity for socio-economic rights in Northern Ireland?

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Abstract

The UK government makes three key human rights-related commitments in the Good Friday Agreement, the basis for the restoration of devolution and transition from conflict to peace in Northern Ireland: incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into Northern Ireland law, consider proposals for a regional Bill of Rights and ensure compliance with the state’s international obligations in the region. While ECHR compliance is required of devolved institutions by the constitutional legislation, the prospects of a Bill of Rights being enacted appear limited and oversight of compliance with other international obligations is unsatisfactorily placed in political, rather than judicial, hands. Consequently, protection of socio-economic rights beyond those covered by ECHR is weak. This paper argues that judicial protection of socio-economic rights – whether in the form of a Bill of Rights or the incorporation of additional human rights agreements into Northern Ireland law – is required for full implementation of the Agreement. It then considers the implications of such a step for social security in the region. The concluding section highlights political and fiscal implications that would have to be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-126
JournalNorthern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Volume66
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • Good Friday Agreement
  • Devolution
  • Social Security
  • Social and economic rights

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