The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Kingdom Law

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

4
Rights and Responses to Terrorism in Northern Ireland

NIGEL S. RODLEY*


INTRODUCTION

The present chapter is being written at a time of guarded hope. On 15 December 1993, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic issued the Downing Street Declaration of principles aimed at inducing the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Sinn Fein to accept 'a permanent end to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence'. Then, 'democratically mandated parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process' (presumably including Sinn Fein) will be 'free to participate fully in democratic politics and to join in dialogue in due course between the Governments and the political parties on the way ahead'.1

An IRA ceasefire was called on 1 September 1994 and other organizations have followed suit. The peace process is under way, and as it continues, it may be that many of the matters raising human rights concerns and considered in this chapter will be overtaken by history.2 This chapter will nevertheless continue to serve as a contemporary case-study of the scope and application of the international law of human rights in relation to a society whose intercommunal tensions have expressed themselves in widespread and protracted politically motivated violence.

The present emergency goes back to the late 1960s and the civil rights marches aimed at protecting de jure and de facto discrimination against the nationalist/Catholic minority by the loyalist/Protestant majority, as well as abusive law enforcement under emergency powers going back to the time of partition in 1922. The marches led to violent loyalist reaction, the reemergence of IRA violence (the provisional IRA; the official IRA, like official Sinn Fein, did not support 'armed struggle'), the sending of the

____________________
*
The views in this chapter are the author's personal opinions and do not reflect those of any institution.
1
The Ulster Declaration, Independent, 16 Dec. 1993, 4.
2
For a most thoughtful and authoritative blueprint towards a peaceful future, see Boyle, K. , and Hadden, T., Northern Ireland: the Choice ( London, 1994).

-121-

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