The Commonwealth of Northern Ireland

Preface

We, the people of Northern Ireland, believe:

  1. that no form of government is legitimate without the consent of the governed
  2. that the state exists solely to serve the needs of its people, and has no rights or powers other than those granted to it by its people
  3. that all persons are equal before the law
  4. that the separation of Church, Nation and State is essential to the creation of a shared society of equals
  5. that it is the duty of public representatives to exercise their responsibilities in the best interests of all the people, without regard to their political, religious or national allegiance
  6. that all persons have the civic duty to contribute to the process of their own governance, and must be given the means and opportunity to do so in an informed and meaningful way

and acknowledging:

  1. that all forms of government of Northern Ireland to date have fallen short of these ideals
  2. that the current system of government is hostile to the development of a just society
  3. that the people are increasingly alienated from their government
  4. that fundamental change is required, and that change must be brought about from within by the people themselves

we therefore declare the establishment of the Commonwealth of Northern Ireland (“the Commonwealth”), as follows:

Chapter 1: Fundamentals

A. Legitimacy

  1. the Commonwealth shall have jurisdiction over the territory of Northern Ireland
  2. the Commonwealth shall derive its existence and legitimacy solely from the freely expressed consent of the people of Northern Ireland
  3. the Commonwealth may, with the consent of its people, hold membership of a union of jurisdictions, and delegate the powers necessary for that union to function; while reserving the right, with the consent of its people, to resign from that union
  4. the Commonwealth shall not be dissolved except with the consent of its people

B. This Document

  1. this document shall be considered the founding document of the Commonwealth, and may be referred to as the Basic Law
  2. any item in any Act, Order or other legal instrument that is found to be incompatible with this document shall have no effect within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, to the extent of its incompatibility
  3. if the law is found to be insufficient to fulfil the requirements of this document, the Commonwealth shall enact legislation to address that deficiency within ninety days of judgement
  4. this document shall only be amended with the consent of the people of the Commonwealth

C. Consent

  1. where this document requires the consent of the people to be given, the following procedure shall be followed
  2. if a motion to recall a representative of a particular constituency is signed by one tenth of the registered electorate of that constituency, then the Commonwealth shall put that motion to the people of that constituency in a referendum within thirty days
  3. if any other motion requiring the consent of the people is signed by one tenth of the registered electorate of the Commonwealth, or is moved by the Constitutive Council, then the Commonwealth shall put that motion to its people in a referendum within ninety days
  4. the question put to the electorate shall be in plain, neutral language and invite a single answer of either yes or no; if a majority of those voting choose yes, then the motion shall be enacted
  5. no motion requiring the consent of the people shall originate from either the Assembly, the Executive or the judiciary

D. Symbols

  1. the flag of the Commonwealth shall be a flax flower of five blue petals, with a gold hexagonal centre surmounted by a red hand, all on a green field
  2. the anthem of the Commonwealth shall be Danny Boy, set to the melody of the Londonderry Air

flax-tight-hand

Chapter 2: Rights and Duties

E. Human Rights

  1. the Commonwealth shall defend the human rights of all; shall give full effect to those rights in law; and shall provide effective remedy to anyone that has been deprived of those rights
  2. nobody shall be put to death, except where absolutely necessary in defence against immediate and unlawful violence
  3. nobody shall be tortured, or subjected to cruel or inhumane punishment
  4. there shall be no slavery or compulsory labour
  5. nobody shall be deprived of liberty except to facilitate the process of justice
  6. any person detained shall be immediately informed of the reasons for detention; promptly brought before a court of law; and be given a trial within a reasonable time
  7. a detainee shall be entitled to challenge the lawfulness of his detention
  8. any person accused of a crime shall be entitled to:
    1. a full understanding of the accusation and supporting evidence
    2. adequate time and resources to prepare a defence, including the right to legal representation and the right to summon witnesses and evidence
    3. equal opportunity to question and refute the witnesses and evidence presented by the prosecution
  9. everyone shall be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt
  10. nobody shall be compelled to give testimony against himself
  11. all penalties shall be proportional to the gravity of the offence
  12. all judicial proceedings shall be held in public; there shall be no secret courts, evidence or judgements, except where this would compromise an ongoing criminal investigation
  13. everyone has the right to prompt and accessible legal redress
  14. the law shall not be applied retrospectively
  15. the law shall not be applied extraterritorially, except where a person is accused of an act that is a criminal offence both domestically and in the jurisdiction where the act took place
  16. the privacy of all persons shall be respected, except where necessary to facilitate the process of justice
  17. any violation of personal privacy shall be subject to the prior and specific approval of a court of law
  18. everyone has the right to freely identify themselves with the nationality, religion and political beliefs of their choice, and shall not face discrimination on the grounds of that choice
  19. the free expression, publication and exchange of information and opinions shall not be prohibited, except as absolutely necessary:
    1. to safeguard against immediate danger to life or health
    2. to protect personal privacy
    3. to prevent a miscarriage of justice
    4. to safeguard information given in confidence, except where disclosure is in the public interest
    5. to prevent defamation of individuals or groups
  20. everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and association; to join a union or other organisation; and to demonstrate in a peaceful manner
  21. nobody shall be compelled to join an organisation
  22. two consenting, unrelated adults shall have the right to marry and start a family; no body other than the Commonwealth itself shall be compelled to perform a marriage ceremony
  23. nobody shall be prevented from leaving the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, except as necessary to facilitate the process of justice
  24. no adult shall be discriminated against on grounds of age, except where necessary for the provision of pensions
  25. nobody shall be discriminated against on grounds of sex, sexual preference, ethnic origin, social class, wealth, physical or mental impairment, circumstances of birth or family background
  26. children and those with severe mental impairment may be subject to proportionate and reasonable restrictions of their rights as necessary to protect their own welfare or public safety; they must be consulted on decisions being taken on their behalf and have their views taken into account as appropriate for their ability
  27. the law shall not be used as an instrument of fear or intimidation
  28. everyone shall have the right to the ownership of private property; property shall not be expropriated except:
    1. in an equitable manner for the purposes of taxation
    2. with fair compensation for the development of necessary public infrastructure
    3. by order of a court of law for the dispensation of justice
  29. all children shall have the right to education free at the point of use
  30. everyone shall have the right to emergency healthcare free at the point of use
  31. everyone shall have the right to seek employment on the basis of their ability, and to receive equitable payment for their labour
  32. everyone shall have the right to safe working conditions and reasonable working hours
  33. nobody shall be allowed to fall into destitution
  34. the omission of a right from this document shall not imply that such a right does not exist

F. Citizenship

  1. all persons legally resident within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth shall be considered citizens of the Commonwealth, in addition to any other citizenship they may hold
  2. Commonwealth citizenship shall be the only citizenship recognised by the Commonwealth for any purposes other than immigration control
  3. Commonwealth citizenship shall not be revoked, except after prolonged absence
  4. all adult citizens shall have the right and duty to vote
  5. it shall be an offence to wilfully fail to vote at an election or referendum mandated by this document

G. Institutions of State

  1. the Commonwealth reserves the right to legislate for the operation of its own institutions, subject only to the limits placed upon it by its people through this document
  2. the Commonwealth shall inherit all the institutions and assets of the previous administration; these shall continue to function as provided for by law, unless amended herein
  3. all elections and referenda mandated by this document shall take place across a consecutive Saturday and Sunday

H. Good Governance

  1. the Commonwealth shall promptly publish all information in its possession in machine readable format and free of charge, except where publication would violate personal privacy, compromise ongoing negotiations or criminal investigations, or lead to a miscarriage of justice
  2. the Commonwealth shall at all times consider only universal moral principles, and shall not give undue weight to any particular religious doctrine
  3. the Commonwealth shall not make exemptions from general principle for any particular religious, ethnic or political group
  4. neither the Commonwealth nor any body established by statute, nor any body funded by the Commonwealth shall fund or mandate any form of religious worship or instruction
  5. the Commonwealth shall at all times take due consideration of the best available scientific evidence
  6. the Commonwealth shall repeal any legislation that proves unnecessary or harmful, or that no longer operates in the intended manner
  7. all Commonwealth legislation, other than repeals of previous legislation, shall be valid for no longer than one hundred years
  8. the Commonwealth shall ensure that all legislation is written in plain language
  9. the Commonwealth shall uphold the human rights of those outside its jurisdiction, as it would uphold the rights of its own people
  10. the Commonwealth shall not pay unvouched expenses
  11. The Ministerial Pledge of Office and Ministerial Code of Conduct, as defined in the Multi-Party Agreement of 10 April 1998, shall be annexed to this document
  12. Ministers shall be required to affirm the Ministerial Pledge of Office as a condition of their appointment
  13. no elected public official shall be eligible for severance payments

I. Taxation

  1. all taxation, excise duties and statutory fees levied within the Commonwealth shall be imposed by and owed to the Commonwealth alone
  2. the Commonwealth commits to pay on behalf of its people the value of any taxes, excise duties or statutory fees owed due to its membership of a union of jurisdictions
  3. the Commonwealth shall not enter into any unfunded pension commitment
  4. neither the Commonwealth nor any body established by statute shall issue debt

Chapter 3: Operation of the Institutions of State

J. The Assembly

  1. there shall be an Assembly of no less than eighty and no more than one hundred members
  2. Assembly constituencies shall be of equal size and representation, and shall return no less than four and no more than six members each by PR(STV)
  3. the Assembly shall have full authority to legislate on behalf of the Commonwealth, subject only to the restrictions imposed in this document
  4. the Assembly shall be dissolved if:
    1. the Assembly fails to elect an Executive within thirty days of its first sitting, or within thirty days of the previous Executive being dissolved
    2. the Assembly fails to pass a budget before the beginning of the financial year or thirty days after its first sitting, whichever comes later
    3. the Assembly fails to pass legislation as required under section B within ninety days of judgement or ninety days after its first sitting, whichever comes later
  5. otherwise, the Assembly shall be dissolved in the fourth year after its first sitting, on the last Friday in April
  6. a general election to a new Assembly must be held within thirty days of the dissolution of the previous Assembly
  7. any vacancy in the Assembly must be filled within thirty days by by-election
  8. by-elections to the Assembly shall be held by the Alternative Vote method (single seat STV)
  9. all ballot papers for elections to the Assembly shall have “none of the above” appearing as if it were a candidate for election; in the event that “none of the above” gains a plurality of first preference votes, the election in that constituency shall be declared null and void, and shall be run again within thirty days with none of the previous candidates permitted to stand for the Assembly again for the remainder of its term
  10. the chair and deputy chair of the Assembly shall be elected jointly by the Assembly from its members
  11. all motions in the Assembly shall require a simple majority; community designation and petitions of concern shall be abolished
  12. any MLA may bring a motion to the floor of the Assembly
  13. MLAs shall be paid two and a half times the median gross wage of the Commonwealth, to be calculated annually
  14. MLAs shall hold no other public office during their tenure
  15. an MLA may be recalled by the consent of the people of that constituency; a by-election shall then be held, with the recalled MLA barred from standing for the Assembly again for the remainder of its term
  16. all parties standing candidates for the Assembly must publish their accounts for the previous five years, including the names of all donors
  17. all election campaigns must be paid for from identifiable campaign funds; all campaign fund accounts must be published, including the names of all donors

K. The Executive and other Committees

  1. there shall be an Executive consisting of a First Minister, a deputy First Minister and one additional Minister for each government department
  2. the Executive acting as a body shall have full executive authority over the government of the Commonwealth, subject to the restrictions placed upon it by this document
  3. the Executive, including the First Minister and deputy First Minister, shall be elected as a body by majority vote of the Assembly
  4. any vacancy in the Executive shall be filled by cooption within fourteen days
  5. the Executive shall be dissolved if it loses the confidence of the Assembly
  6. there shall be a committee of Assembly members for each government department; each committee shall have the power to
    1. audit the functioning of that department, including allocation of budget
    2. approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee stage of relevant primary legislation
    3. call for persons and papers
    4. initiate enquiries and make reports
    5. consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by its Minister
  7. other committees may be established by the Assembly as required
  8. The Chairs and Deputy Chairs of the Assembly Committees will be allocated using the d’Hondt system
  9. parties represented in the Executive shall have their representation weighted by one half when allocating committee chairs and deputy chairs; otherwise chairs shall be allocated proportionally to party representation in the Assembly
  10. there shall be an Opposition, including a Leader of the Opposition and deputy Leader of the Opposition, which shall be elected as a body by majority vote of those MLAs who did not vote in favour of the current Executive
  11. the Opposition shall have equal opportunity to speak and propose legislation as the Executive, and shall be granted sufficient resources to enable it to use that opportunity productively
  12. Ministers shall be paid in total no more than twice the salary of an MLA
  13. a Minister may be removed by a confidence vote in the Assembly
  14. a Minister may be recalled by the consent of the people of the Commonwealth; the recalled Minister shall be barred from Executive membership for the remainder of the Assembly term
  15. any Minister judged to have breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct shall be barred from Executive membership for the remainder of the Assembly term

L. The Supreme Court

  1. there shall be a Supreme Court of the Commonwealth consisting of five members
  2. any vacancy in the Supreme Court must be filled within thirty days
  3. members of the Supreme Court shall be elected individually by the judiciary of the Commonwealth from its own membership, using the Alternative Vote method in one constituency
  4. no Supreme Court judge may be a member of a political party
  5. the Supreme Court shall have sole jurisdiction over the interpretation of this document
  6. Supreme Court judges shall be paid twice the salary of an MLA
  7. a Supreme Court judge may be recalled by the consent of the people of the Commonwealth; no recalled judge shall be eligible for reelection to the Supreme Court
  8. Supreme Court judges may not be removed by any other method

M. The Constitutive Council

  1. every twentieth year after the declaration of the Commonwealth, a Constitutive Council of one hundred members shall be chosen from the registered electorate of the Commonwealth by sortition
  2. no sitting judge, nor any elected public representative shall be eligible for membership of the Constitutive Council
  3. the Constitutive Council shall operate as a jury under the supervision of the Supreme Court, and sit for a period of no more than one year
  4. the Constitutive Council shall draw up a list of motions to be put to the people by the consent procedure above
  5. the Constitutive Council shall be provided with sufficient resources, including independent qualified legal advice, to perform its duties
  6. members of the Constitutive Council shall be paid their current wage plus one half the salary of an MLA
  7. nobody shall refuse to serve on the Constitutive Council except due to incapacity; incapable members shall be replaced within seven days by sortition

Chapter 4: Relationship with Other Jurisdictions

N. The United Kingdom

  1. Northern Ireland shall be a constituent country of the UK
  2. the Commonwealth shall delegate sufficient powers to the institutions of the UK so that they may perform their legal duties
  3. no Act, Order or other legal instrument of the UK shall invalidate any provision of this document

O. The Republic of Ireland

  1. the Commonwealth shall co-operate with the Republic of Ireland through the North South Ministerial Council, and any other mechanism as provided by law
  2. the Commonwealth shall delegate sufficient powers to the Council and its institutions so that they may perform their legal duties
  3. all Council decisions shall be made on the basis of mutual agreement between equal jurisdictions

Chapter 5: Temporary Provisions

P. Equality of Representation

  1. notwithstanding the above, for a period of twenty one years after the establishment of the Commonwealth (unless extended by the consent of the people) the following restrictions on public office shall apply:
  2. all political parties must field an equal number of male and female candidates (plus or minus one) in any election
  3. all political parties must field an equal number of candidates from the Catholic community as from the Protestant community (plus or minus one), as defined in Equal Opportunities legislation, in any election
  4. there shall be no restriction on the number of candidates from neither the Protestant nor Catholic community
  5. the Executive, the Opposition and the Supreme Court shall each contain
    1. the same number of male and female members (plus or minus one)
    2. the same number of Protestant and Catholic members (plus or minus one), as defined by Equal Opportunities legislation
  6. the First Minister and deputy First Minister shall not both be Protestants nor shall they both be Catholics
  7. the Chair and deputy Chair of the Assembly shall not both be Catholics, nor shall they both be Protestants

Q. Transition of Power

  1. the Commonwealth shall be established once a referendum to that effect is passed under the consent procedure above; however the restriction that no motion requiring consent can originate in the Assembly shall not apply
  2. a transitional period of between twelve and eighteen months shall be provided after establishment for enabling legislation to be passed under existing procedures; during this time the institutions of state shall operate as per existing legislation
  3. the initial membership of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the judiciary within twelve months of establishment using PR(STV) in one constituency, with the following modifications:
    1. once three men (or three women) are elected, all other men (or women) shall be eliminated
    2. once two Catholics (or two Protestants, or two neither) are elected, all other Catholics (or Protestants, or neither) shall be eliminated
    3. if any seat remains unfilled, it shall be treated as a new vacancy and filled by the usual method
  4. the Supreme Court shall act in a shadow capacity until the transitional period ends
  5. if no enabling legislation is passed by the end of twelve months, the Commonwealth shall enact such legislation on its own behalf within a further six months
  6. once enabling legislation is passed into law, the transitional period shall be terminated, the Assembly shall be dissolved and the Supreme Court shall assume its full responsibilities
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2 thoughts on “The Commonwealth of Northern Ireland

  1. Pingback: P. Equality of Representation (The Commonwealth of NI) | The random ramblings of andrewg

  2. Pingback: Northern Ireland needs a final settlement | The random ramblings of andrewg

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