Human rights academic Colin Harvey says he “saddened” by speculation that his appointment to Bill of Rights panel is being blocked by the DUP

Posted By: November 06, 2021

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, November 6, 2021.

Queen’s University academic Colin Harvey has said he is “saddened” by a suggestion his appointment to a Stormont advisory committee is being blocked by the DUP.

The human rights specialist was interviewed in June 2020 for one of five positions on the panel of experts which would advise the assembly’s Ad hoc Committee for a Bill of Rights.

He told The Irish News last night that nearly 18 months on he has heard nothing from the Executive Office.

Prof Harvey is professor of human rights law at Queen’s school of law and has served as one of Northern Ireland’s human rights commissioners.

The committee’s chair, Sinn Féin MLA Emma Sheerin, said it was “totally unacceptable” that the appointments had not been made in line with commitments in New Decade New Approach.

“The DUP is blocking the appointment of a human rights expert and academic to the panel,” she said, without naming Prof Harvey.

“A Bill of Rights guaranteeing human rights for all citizens is no threat to anyone but the DUP is unwilling and incapable of delivering on rights, whether that is for women, our LGBT+ citizens, our Irish language community, and others.”

Amnesty International director Patrick Corrigan said he wrote to the first and deputy first ministers last week voicing concerns that the panel had not been appointed.

He said the failure was a “breach” of the agreement that saw devolution restored last year.

“It is even more concerning if the failure to agree with this five-member panel is because of a refusal to appoint someone of the standing of Professor Colin Harvey, a leading authority on constitutional and human rights law on these islands and one of the most distinguished researchers and writers on the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland,” he said.

Prof Harvey said he was keen to assist the committee in an advisory capacity but believed his involvement with Ireland’s Future civic society group had made him a target for unionist hostility.

“I am saddened to hear these reports about the expert panel and it is disappointing to see what appears to be a further political blockage to the Bill of Rights process,” he said.

There was no comment from the Executive Office or the DUP.