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Unionists demonstrate opposition to Equality Agenda

18 August, 2006

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Women and Older People, Newry Armagh MLA Pat O'Rawe speaking from the 'Preparation for Government' committee today has said that unionists continue to demonstrate their opposition to the Equality Agenda after proposals to strengthen the powers of the Equality Commission, increase the number of public bodies designated (to include the BBC, PPS, British Treasury and MoD and British Secretary of State) and establish an independent appointments process for the Equality Commission were rejected by the DUP and Alliance party.

Ms O'Rawe said:

"Unionists of all shades need to recognise that by frustrating progress on the Equality Agenda that they demonstrate that they are unable or unwilling to embrace the new political realities of the 21st century.

"Bodies such as the Equality Commission need to be supported and strengthened so that we can see the outworking of the principles of Equality enshrined in the Agreement.

"This means the Equality Commission using its powers of investigation and enforcement to greater effect and it means, for example, amending the 1998 Act to give the Commission the power to compel public bodies to comply with its rulings. It also means that public bodies such as the BBC, Public Prosecution Service, British Treasury and MoD and British Secretary of State should all become designated.

"The refusal of unionists to acknowledge that this would benefit us all in the battle against inequality is frustrating because it perpetuates the myth that nationalists gain from equality and unionists lose from equality. While it is true that strong and effective equality measures will confront discrimination it is also true that they will uphold the rights of all regardless of background, colour, creed, age, disability or sexual orientation. This is a good thing.

"It also comes as no surprise that the Alliance party is opposed to independent recruitment process for the Equality Commission. For far too long Ministerial patronage has allowed the Alliance party to exercise a far greater power than their very small electoral mandate would support." ENDS

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