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24 April 2015

Does Northern Ireland Need A New Magna Carta Charter?

Does Northern Ireland need a new Magna Carta charter and how applicable would one be in the new digital age, were just some of the questions discussed at a special event in Belfast to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.

From left to right - Kuda Kunaka, BRA, Johanna Balajadia, Victoria College, Shannon Black, Cookstown High School, Alastair Ross MLA, Bernadette Benati from WWW, Alan Hunter, Chief Executive of the Law Society, Bronagh Quinn, St Louise's and Alizeh Ali from BRA

Does Northern Ireland need a new Magna Carta charter and how applicable would one be in the new digital age, were just some of the questions discussed at a special event in Belfast to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.

Originally written in 1215, the Magna Carta charter was once famously described by Lord Denning as "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot".

800 years later and over 100 invited guests including sixth form students, academics and legal professionals attended a special event hosted and organised by the Law Society of Northern Ireland at Law Society House in Belfast to examine the importance and relevance of Magna Carta in 21st Century world.

Those attending the special event had an opportunity to hear from a number of key note speakers including Professor Brice Dickson from Queens University, School of Law and Bernadette Benati from the World Wide Web Foundation.

Professor Dickson provided an overview of the history and importance of Magna Carta charter and its relevance today.

In her presentation to attendees, Bernadette Benati took the opportunity to examine the issues surrounding the need for a new Magna Carta in a digital age and she also took the occasion to pass on a personal message from Sir Tim Berners-Lee (Credited with inventing the World Wide Web) to the attending students and to encourage them to participate in a new initiative entitled ‘Web We Want Festival’.

Commenting about the celebratory event the President of the Law Society, Arleen Elliott said:

“The Law Society of Northern Ireland is delighted to have hosted this special event to mark the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta Charter. It is obvious that in this age where access to justice, legal aid funding and the future of many of our courthouses are under threat it is important that we remind all within our community of the important principles and values enshrined in the Magna Carta charter”.

Professor Brice Dickson said:

“While Magna Carta was a very different document from modern Bills of Rights, it entrenched the legal principles that no-one is above the law and that every individual has certain basic rights which need to be protected by the law. Those principles remain very pertinent to the modern world and still need to be constantly guarded.”

Speaking after the event, Bernadette Benati from the World Wide Web Foundation said:

“Coming back to my home town of Belfast with a message from the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners Lee for the young people of Northern Ireland is a huge privilege. I am confident that his gesture will galvanise future discussions about the idea a Magna Carta for the web.”