Annual Branch Meeting
  "The Work of the Attorney General's Office"  
    The Annual Branch Meeting was held in St Finnian's, Cregagh on Thursday 16 October 2014 hosted by the Cregagh Branch with Mothers' Union members present.

The Speaker, John Larkin QC, Attorney General for Northern Ireland, took as his theme "Interplay between the State and Believers - Corporately and Individually".

Christianity developed from a foundation of Judaism in Greek and Roman times. Today in Great Britain and Ireland we have a background of Christian belief, divided Christianity and a secular society.

The French Revolution  gave Human Rights and allowed personal practice of religion provided its manifestation was not against public order. However the structure of the Church was suppressed with opposition to monasteries and realignment of diocesan boundaries with civil boundaries. The American War of Independence also enshrined rights to religious beliefs but forbade establishing religion.

At this time in the British Isles there were three established Churches - England, Ireland and Scotland - two Anglican and one Presbyterian. With the Act of Union the Churches of England and Ireland were united leaving two established Churches.

John Larkin QC

1914 saw the start of the great War and Home Rule Bill for Ireland.
The Government of Ireland Act of 1914 and the later 1922 Act provided protection for minority churches.
    Later Northern Ireland Legislation such as the Northern Ireland Constitution of 1973 and the 1998 Northern Ireland Act ensured that there should be no discrimination against anyone on grounds of Religious belief. Since then the Constitutional landscape has been added to by EU and local legislation on Human rights, Equality and Discrimination.

He went on to quote some recent case laws where the right to religious beliefs of one individual has been tested against the rights of others. Generally rights of individuals or small groups have been accepted where they add to the rights of society in general, but rejected if they are against the common good. Care must also be taken to differentiate between basic religious beliefs and religious practices.

Today we think we know all the answers re Human Rights, but we have still a lot to learn from our ancestors, particularly the Greeks and Romans.

After a break for tea the Attorney General answered members' questions. 

Garth Corbett (Cregagh Branch Chairman), Bill Christie ( Cregagh Branch Vice-President ), John Larkin QC (attorney General for northern Ireland) and Arthur Macartney (CIMS Hon Lay Sec)