With the pending appointment of several mew members to the Equality Commission, the Alliance party has stated that now is the time to move the
equality agenda forward to better reflect the realities of life in Northern Ireland.
Alliance Leader, David Ford, said:
“The retiring Chief Commissioner, Dame Joan Harbinson, must be congratulated for the work she has done in establishing the new Commission. It has brought together the previously separate agencies dealing with religious, gender and disability issues. It has successfully dealt with concerns that some issues would be given a higher priority.
“The new Commission faces new challenges. I believe that the most important is to examine whether existing methods of redressing discrimination actually reinforce perceptions of division in this society.
“In particular, the monitoring process for religious discrimination has not changed significantly since the 1970s. It no longer reflects the reality of life in Northern Ireland.
“We are not a society solely composed of Catholics and Protestants, yet the monitoring process suggests that no other backgrounds matter.
“To require job applicants to sign up as a member of ‘the Protestant community’ or ‘the Catholic community’ is to imply that each of these groups is homogeneous and utterly distinct from the other. This is nonsense.
“Personally, I do not believe that I have more in common with unionist paramilitaries than with Catholic Alliance members.
“It is time for the new Commission to start to move the Agenda forward, to better reflect the reality of life.”