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O'Hagan - Legal victory quashes Equality Commission decision to withdraw support from discriminations case

2 April, 2003

Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Dr Dara O'Hagan has welcomed the decision of the High Court to quash the decision of the Equality Commission to withdraw financial support from a discrimination case after a judicial review of the decision.

Dr O'Hagan said:

"The ruling in this judicial review of the Equality Commission's decision to withdraw funding, at the last minute, in this discrimination case has serious implication for the Commission itself and particularly the legal funding committee.

"In the current negotiation Sinn Féin have been pressing the British government to live up to its Good Friday Agreement commitment on the full implementation of the Equality Agenda. I am seeking an urgent meeting with Des Browne to address Sinn Féin's concerns about the Equality Commission and its ability to support discrimination cases.

"The view of legal counsel that it was difficult to escape the conclusion that the Equality Commission miscalculated its finances, panicked and slashed its' caseload and then found reasons to justify its decision to withdraw funding of the majority of its discrimination cases only afterwards.

"The judgement against the Equality Commission highlighted the fact that it had made fatal errors in compounding an erroneous decision taken on a mistaken basis not just once but three times. This indicates that previous mistakes were then not addressed in twice reviewing the original decision by the Equality Commission legal funding committee.

"This ruling calls the credibility of the funding committee into question. I would also be concerned that the legal costs associated with defending the injunction far out way the cost in continuing to support this discrimination case that is due to be heard next week. The Equality Commission must, as a matter of urgency review its decision to withdraw support for funding its discrimination caseload. The financial implication of having to fight a judicial review into every decision made on such a mistaken basis cannot be under stated.

"The decision to stop supporting discrimination cases, that was taken entirely without consultation, also sends entirely the wrong message out to employers that operate either mechanisms of direct or indirect discrimination. The issue of discrimination whether direct or indirect or indeed structural and institutional must be tackled in an open and transparent way if we are going to build the ethos of equality and human rights into the fabric of our society." ENDS

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