‘Equality within our grasp’ - McGuinness
Martin McGuinness has told a large gathering of community and voluntary organisations in Derry city that the tools are now in place to deliver genuine equality for the people of the North.
The Deputy First Minister was invited by local Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson to address a large cross-section of groups involved in equality work.
He said: "When Sinn Féin developed our Assembly election manifesto commitments prior to last year's election, central to that manifesto was our political, ideological and practical commitment to equality.
"We said that a future which is shared between all the people of the North must be based on equality.
"We committed to conducting Equality Impact Assessments of all overarching and high-level policies - this is something we were previously told couldn't be done.
We pledged that public procurement contracts - the public money which Departments spend - would be used to promote equality and inclusion.
"No-one said it would be easy. And we, by no means, have delivered everything that we aim to achieve on equality. But it is important to recognise that some progress has been made.
"We now have a Programme for Government, Budget and Investment Strategy within which equality is an absolutely fundamental element. In the preparation of these documents, Sinn Féin sought to ensure they included an overarching commitment to the delivery of equality.
"Furthermore, Sinn Fein insisted that the Programme for Government, Budget and Investment Strategy must be equality-proofed. This now requires a full Equality Impact Assessment of the documents. The Executive is required to take into account the outcome of the EQIA in the future allocation of resources, including Budget Monitoring Rounds, and in influencing final decisions about the delivery and review of the Programme for Government and Investment Strategy.
"Before agreeing to the final documents, Sinn Féin made it a pre-requisite that these robust equality measures must be included and mainstreamed."
The Mid-Ulster MP added that the reality of these commitments meant that every penny of public investment - some £18 billion over the next decade - would have to be utilized in such a way as it addresses inequality in areas such as Derry.
He added: "We are now into a full 12-week consultation period to examine and assess the Equality Impacts of the PfG, the Budget and the Investment Strategy. This offers a real opportunity for everyone to become involved in shaping the future delivery, review and amendment of the strategies.
"All of this offers real potential to change the existing patterns of inequality and disadvantage across society. Based on this foundation stone of promoting equality, we believe there is a real prospect that a shared and better future for all can be built in the time ahead."ENDS