Labour questions whether UK’s Rwanda Bill breaches Belfast Agreement

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has written to Tánaiste after concerns raised with him by British Labour Party

Labour has questioned whether the UK government’s contentious Rwanda Bill breaches the Belfast Agreement.

In a letter to Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Labour’s justice spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin wrote that concerns had been raised with him by the British Labour Party about “the impact of this proposal on – and its compatibility with – the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol”.

Britain is seeking to seek to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing. The Conservative government has said that anyone entering the UK illegally could be sent there, with no limit on numbers – but no asylum seeker has been sent yet. The bill would declare Rwanda to be a safe country to which to send migrants, overcoming a key legal obstacle after a previous attempt to set up an immigration deal with the African country floundered in the courts.

The bill, Mr Ó Ríordáin wrote, is covered by a note from UK Home Secretary James Cleverly that he is unable to make a statement that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.


“This is because the purpose of the Bill is to severely restrict access to the courts by asylum seekers who want to contest their transfer to Rwanda,” the Dublin Bay North TD told the Tánaiste in a letter sent on Friday. “The Bill would apply throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland.”

Mr Ó Ríordáin wrote that there were two “major concerns”. Firstly, there is the compatibility of the Rwanda approach with guarantees in the Belfast Agreement on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity.

He also argued that the Northern Ireland Protocol – the deal that governs Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status – is implemented in part by legislation on the UK’s withdrawal from Europe, under which “EU rights must be recognised and given legal effect in UK law, with access to appropriate remedies”.

Mr Ó Ríordáin has asked the Tánaiste if he interprets the Bill as raising any issues of concern in relation to either the Belfast Agreement or the protocol.

“If the proposal is of concern, I would like to know if it was discussed with the Irish Government before its introduction or has ben raised by you with your counterparts at any stage since then.”

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Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times