Dawn Purvis Stands up for the Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights saga has been a total disaster, partly due to the approach taken by the Commission, and partly because unionists are averse to such a thing in the first place. Which we might consider a bit ironic given that one of the major things guaranteeing civil and religious liberty (for male Protestant property-owners anyway) under King Billy was in fact a Bill of Rights. First as tragedy, then as farce eh?

The topic came up recently in the Assembly at Stormont, with Dawn Purvis of the PUP taking the lead. Interestingly, she raised the point that the conditions that bred the Troubles – discrimination in jobs and housing among other things – would have been prevented by a strong Bill of Rights, much to the annoyance of a UUP sensitive over its shameful record. A strong and enforceable Bill of Rights has been a central plank of Workers’ Party policy in NI for decades, and remains so. So it’s good to see someone standing up for a bill of rights on class grounds, even if it is couched in terms of working class protestants.

The lack of honesty in the other unionist parties in this chamber is disheartening,” said Ms Purvis.
“Are they afraid that if the Protestant working classes fully understood and recognised their own rights, they would then have expectations of a more equitable society?
“Are they afraid that they couldn’t then deliver such a society? Or do they just not want to deliver such a society?”
She added: “The duplicity continues. Every week the parties in this chamber wax lyrical about how hard they are working on the issues they are seeing in their constituency offices.
“Problems with housing, access to medication and adequate care, mental health services, the post-primary transfer and the guarantee of a decent education.
“What exactly do they think these are? These are rights for which people are seeking protection.”

Hard to argue with a lot of that, especially when the DUP and Ulster Unionists remain hostile. Dawn Purvis was calling for a public consultation on the issue. Personally I’d rather see the government produce a bill of rights. Can’t see it happening though.


7 Responses to “Dawn Purvis Stands up for the Bill of Rights”

  1. nineteensixtyseven Says:

    It’s quite nauseating to see Basil McCrea deny the socio-economic roots of the Troubles to cover for his own party’s past of sectarian and class discrimination.

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    It certainly is. And this is the new progrdssive conservatism in NI in action. Defending the Stormont regime. The fact McCrea is so obviously a lightweight makes it all the worse to boot.

  3. nineteensixtyseven Says:

    Henry Kelly’s tacitly doing so too in the Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/1109/1224258393337.html

  4. WorldbyStorm Says:

    I saw that nineteensixtyseven. He cannot strike but he cannot draw back. Pretty abysmal I thought.

    Garibaldy, I’ve been thinking a lot about this post the last few days. Particularly the issue of her using the term Protestant working class. It’s problematic, and yet I notice that she uses this as a stick to beat ‘official’ unionism. And then contextualised with her points about the catholic working class it does have an educative value. If… if people are listening.

  5. Garibaldy Says:

    Thanks for that 1967. Interesting, and I think as WBS says, wrong-headed. I read Kelly’s book (How Stormont Fell I think was the title) years ago, and don’t remember it taking this tone. I think his mistake is to link the violence to the civil rights movement as though one was the inevitable outflow of the other. He does say the violence hijacked the civil rights movement, but he still seems to view the two as inseparable. It’s weird.


    I agree entirely that the use of the term Protestant working class is problematic. But, as you say, there’s a clear class element here, and there is some sense of cross-community class interest. It’s an important contribution I think, not least because, as with the 11 Plus, one of the most progressive voices in the Assembly is coming out of unionism. I know some people are listening. We’ll have to see about the rest.

  6. nineteensixtyseven Says:

    I must say that I have found Dawn Purvis very impressive on many occasions. Let us hope that growing Protestant working-class consciousness is a step towards growing class conscious in Northern Ireland as a whole.

  7. Garibaldy Says:

    She is definitely an impressive figure, and probably the most consistently left-wing voice in the entire Assembly. I definitely think that people like her are eager to build some form of cross-community working class politics, even if it is not the form I would like to see. As for a growing class consciousness, we live in hope 🙂

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