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Human Rights in Northern Ireland: Past and Future

  • The Works, The MAC 10 Exchange Street Belfast, Northern Ireland, bt1 United Kingdom (map)


Human Rights in Northern Ireland: Past and Future: A seminar about the issues facing human rights activists in Northern Ireland in the past and in the future. 

Maggie Beirne, a past Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) will present her short history of CAJ, “A Beacon of Hope.” Brian Gormally, the current Director of CAJ, will speak on the challenges facing human rights defenders in the era of Brexit and resurgent racism, the struggle to overcome the legacy of the past and the prospects for the future. A panel of distinguished human rights lawyers and activists will discuss the issues raised with the audience.

In the preface to her history of CAJ, Maggie Beirne notes that:

Mary Robinson, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited Belfast a few months after the negotiation of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and said of the Committee on the Administration of Justice: “CAJ has been a beacon of light in Northern Ireland’s long hard night”. People coming new to the organisation may want to know why she said this, and long-standing members may enjoy being reminded of their role in making this assessment possible.

Maggie’s monograph sets out the history of the organisation that led to Mary Robinson’s conclusion and its work since. 

For the past five years, Brian Gormally has been Director of CAJ and will take this opportunity to outline the contemporary challenges facing CAJ and the human rights community in general. He will argue that significant threats to the protection of human rights in Northern Ireland and to the basis of the peace settlement have arisen in the last two years. The current UK Government is committed to repeal of the Human Rights Act (HRA) and we have also seen the referendum campaign demanding that the UK leave the European Union which was characterised by xenophobia and unashamed racism.

Brian will say that in taking its work forward over the next three years, CAJ will take as its priorities combating impunity, working for contemporary accountability, protecting the freedom of expression and assembly while suppressing racism, protecting human rights and the peace settlement, promoting equality and international solidarity.