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Minister denies Government's obligations under Good Friday Agreement

2 February, 2006

Speaking after a debate with Junior Justice Minister Frank Fahey Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh accused the Minister of not understanding the Good Friday Agreement and of being unsuitable for his position.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “By admitting that he does not accept that there is a shortfall between the equality protections in this State and those in the Six Counties and by arguing that the Government is not bound by equivalence provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, Junior Minister Frank Fahey has shown a complete lack of understanding of the Agreement and hence his unsuitability for his position. Frank Fahey needs to sit down, read the Good Friday Agreement and listen to the Equality Authority. 

Speaking during the debate in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh accused the Government of not living up to its Good Friday Agreement commitments by failing to deliver on obligations under Strand 3 to ensure in this State “at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights” with that pertaining to the six counties and he called on Justice Minister Michael McDowell to bring forward amendments to equality legislation to bring human rights and equality protections in line with those in the North.

He said, “In 1998, when the Irish people cast their vote in favour of the Good Friday Agreement they correctly believed and expected that the rights protections won by Republicans under the Agreement would benefit them also.  The Minister has been whittling away equality protections and refusing to entertain any notion of a rights-based society - he is trampling on the expressed will of the people of this island.

"The joint report of the Equality Authority and Commission re-affirms Sinn Fein’s conclusion and proves that the government has failed to deliver on its obligations under Strand 3 of the Good Friday Agreement.  And that the government have failed thus far to ensure in this state ‘at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights’ with that pertaining to the six counties.  And consequently is also in breach of its own Programme for Government statement that full implementation of all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement is the government’s ‘top priority’.”

Deputy Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister “when will he deliver these long overdue acts of completion and when will he address the ‘equivalence failings’ identified by Sinn Fein and now also identified by the Equality Authority and Commission including:

·            limitations in this state’s European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003;

·            limitations in the scope of this state’s equality legislation with regard to disability, public function, political opinion, and enforcement and remedies;

·            limitations in the treatment of transexual people and gay and lesbian people in this state; and

·          the absence of positive duties to promote equality.” ENDS

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