Video: Derry rights expert Colin Harvey warns of 'systematic disrespect' towards Irish citizens

Derry human rights expert Professor Colin Harvey has talked of a growing sense of “Irish citizens being abandoned and disrespected” due to the non-implementation of key elements of the Good Friday Agreement.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 10:50 am
Updated Monday, 20th May 2019, 11:50 am
Professor Colin Harvey.
Professor Colin Harvey.

And he paid tribute to Co. Derry woman Emma DeSouza who has insisted on her rights as an Irish and European Union citizen in the face of British Home Office opposition.

The Queen’s University academic made the comments during a briefing of the Seanad Special Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

Referring to the case of Mrs. DeSouza, who, as an Irish citizen has residency rights in the EU but has been told by the Home Office she must first renounce her ‘Britishness’ to claim them, Prof. Harvey said the Magherafelt woman was standing up for the rights of all Irish citizens.

Professor Colin Harvey.

“The Good Friday Agreement, and the birthright provisions that are there, the right to be accepted and identify as British or Irish, or both, have already been outlined,” he said.

“It is helpful to put that in context in terms of the current conversation that is happening in relation to the North, and is reflected in the very courageous campaign being undertaken by Emma and Jake DeSouza.

“That is the sense in which the parity of esteem, mutual respect, and equal treatment provisions of the GFA have been significantly neglected.

“They have been subjected to systematic disrespect. I put that out there as a context for framing this conversation,” he told the committee.

Emma and Jake DeSouza.

The Derry man went on to ask the committee how they would feel if, by simply asserting their Irishness and claiming their rights as citizens, they were told they were ‘really British’.

“Think about it like this, if you are a northern born Irish citizen and you are told, ‘Well actually you’re really British, you may think you’ve a right under the GFA to be Irish but actually you’re...’

“Think about how that feels.The birthright provisions in the Good Friday Agreement concern everyone on this island. Those who stand courageously on one aspect of that birthright provision do so on behalf of everyone potentially protected by it,” he said.

He said the Dublin Government needed to be less apologetic when standing up for the rights of its citizens.

“I am speaking here today as an Irish citizen who is not about to wave my passport in front of the committee, and what I pick up is a sense that, to be candid, the passport I have does not seem to hold any sort of inferior status because I was born in Derry and now live and work in Belfast.

“There is a sense in which that really matters for Irish citizens, however, I pick up an odd mood in the Irish State and Government about recognising the fact that there is a broader context in the North.

“There is a broader human rights framework, but there are also Irish citizens in the North who are not in a very good place and who feel fundamentally disrespected in terms of some of the things we have been talking about this afternoon,” he said.