An Alliance Party delegation has met with the new Head of the Equality Commission, Bob Collins, and in a wide-ranging meeting, urged the Commission to re-examine the manner in which fair employment monitoring is conducted when it comes to those of non-unionist and non-nationalist backgrounds.
Speaking after the meeting, Alliance Party Leader, David Ford, said:
“Alliance first of all welcomed Mr Collins to his new post, and stressed that we will judge him not on his background but how he performs in his office.
“Alliance stressed our support for fair employment monitoring over the past 30 years, and emphasised its role in producing an integrated workforce. However, the method of categorising people does not adequately take into account the changing nature of Northern Ireland at three levels. First, there are a growing number of people who wish to throw off tribal labels. Second, there are people who cannot be categorised, either through being a product of a mixed marriage or being from an ethnic minority background. Third, there is substantial diversity within those from Protestant and Catholic backgrounds that needs to be catered for; there are no monolithic communities.
“We also explored how the approach used to ensure integrated workplaces, free from sectarian paraphernalia, can be extended to protecting shared space. Alliance believes that there should be a duty on public bodies to ensure that their goods, facilities and services are delivered in a neutral and non-discriminatory manner. Where others abuse them through erecting flags or painting murals, public bodies such as the Roads Service and Housing Executive have a duty to respond.
“Alliance also expressed concerns, shared by the Equality Commission, at the slow pace of progress on a Single Equality Bill. While the Government have recently made clear play on the decisions that they will be taking for Northern Ireland, they are continuing to leave behind efforts to harmonise equality legislation across the various sectors.”