The Government undertook, in terms of its own obligations on human rights under the Agreement, to take further steps to further strengthen and protect human rights in this jurisdiction. These included establishing an independent human rights commission and an examination of the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into the Constitution.
As Deputies will be aware, the Human Rights Commission has been established and is up and running for some time. I am advised by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has lead policy responsibility for this area, that the European Convention on Human Rights Bill, 2001, has been restored to the Dáil Order Paper at Committee Stage.
We have also met our other obligations in this area through ratification of the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities, the implementation of enhanced employment equality legislation, the introduction of equal status legislation and the establishment of the Joint Committee of Representatives of the Human Rights Commissions, North and South.
The Deputy's question refers to obligations, which would be more than that, imposed on the Government dependent upon the outcome of the consultation process between the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Secretary of State's consideration of its final report to him in 2003. Under the Agreement we set out to do certain tasks in our jurisdiction. There are, were and continue to be specific circumstances regarding Northern Ireland which require a particular response. In the context of that divided society, and the failure to have everybody adhere to and give allegiance to basic institutions of state, there is, perhaps, a need for a rights regime which will provide the necessary confidence in all communities, comprising whatever is the outcome of their current deliberations.
As the Deputy will be aware, until such time as the constitutional arrangements change, the jurisdiction remains under the United Kingdom. There are rights regimes and a range of economic, social, employment and other rights in existence in the United Kingdom and different ones in the Republic of Ireland. It is not axiomatic that the outcome of this process is that we end up with the same rights in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland while two different jurisdictions exist. These are matters for consideration by the Government in due course, but I do not see it as necessarily being as paradoxical as the Deputy is suggesting if the outcome of the process should lead to that.