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O'Hagan - SDLP confused on equality agenda

11 October, 2003

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Equality issues Dr. Dara O'Hagan has accused the SDLP representative Patricia Lewsley of being 'completely and totally confused on Sinn Féin's position'. Dr. O'Hagan's comments come after Patricia Lewsley claimed that Sinn Féin was proposing a Department of Justice and Equality.

Dr. O'Hagan said:

" Yesterday after a meeting with the Equality Commission Patricia Lewsley criticised the lack of drive behind the Equality Agenda. She also criticised what she claimed were Sinn Féin proposals for a Department of Justice and Equality.

" Sinn Féin have never proposed a Department of Justice and Equality. We have been the party demanding that the British government transfer powers on Policing and Justice to the Assembly and we have been the lead party over the years in promoting the Equality agenda.

" It was Sinn Féin who proposed that the best way in which the Equality agenda would be advanced was through a separate Department for Equality. This idea was rejected by a coalition of the SDLP and UUP in the negotiations which led to the creation of the ten current departments. The outworking of this and the positioning of the Equality issue within the remit of OFM/DFM is the reason for the lack of drive which Patricia Lewsley is now complaining about. It is hypocritical for her to complain about a situation which her party helped to create through a bad negotiating strategy." ENDS

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