Motion: Equality Legislation
‘That this Assembly notes, given the passage of the Equality Act in 2010, that Northern Ireland is now out of step with the rest of the UK in terms of equality protections; expresses concern that no progress has been made on introducing a Single Equality Act in this mandate; rejects the proposed Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill; further regrets the failure of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to introduce age discrimination legislation that covers under-16s; and calls on the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to issue a fresh consultation paper to facilitate the speedy consideration of a Single Equality Bill by the Assembly.’
[Mr Dickson, Ms Lo, Mr Lyttle]
Chris Lyttle MLA said: “Since the return of devolution in 2007, one of the biggest failures of the Executive has been the lack of progress on equality laws. We have yet to see the Single Equality Bill that should have been introduced years ago, we have yet to see the sexual orientation strategy that has been ignored and we have yet to see the implementation of the racial equality strategy.
“We are already far behind the rest of the UK in terms of equality laws and are in serious danger of falling even further behind if we do not see some dramatic action by OFMDFM in the next few months.
“When they do manage to cobble together agreement on an equality issue, they can only manage a partial deal. Their recent announcement on preventing age discrimination did not cover young people under 16 years old. OFMDFM must look to revise their proposals to include people of all ages, young and old.
“The flawed nature of the so called conscience clause proposal could cause serious harm to our finely balanced equality laws. Any general conscience clause would facilitate unjustified discrimination which would have serious implications for minority groups and vulnerable people. If it were to be passed, it could take us backwards in terms of equality protections.”