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Belfast Agreement

Volume 708: debated on Monday 23 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the Belfast agreement of 1998, they agreed with the Government of the Republic of Ireland the concept of equality and parity of esteem for all the people on the island of Ireland. [HL1185]

The Belfast agreement addressed the concept of parity of esteem primarily within the context of Northern Ireland—in particular the references to the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (paragraph 5(e) of the strand one chapter) and the consideration by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission of the scope for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland (paragraph 4 of the chapter on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity).

In addition, paragraph 1(v) of the chapter on constitutional issues of the Belfast agreement (which is reproduced at Article 1(v) of the agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland) committed the two Governments to ensuring that:

“whatever choice [between remaining part of the United Kingdom or becoming part of a united Ireland] is freely exercised by the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction [in Northern Ireland] shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities”.