8th December 2002
Governments must honour equality and human rights commitments
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Human Rights and Equality issues, Bairbre de Brún MLA has today called on the British and Irish governments to `honour the commitments they made in the Good Friday Agreement on Equality and Human Rights matters.'
Ms de Brún was speaking at a Sinn Fein conference in Belfast to discuss Equality and Human Rights and their impact on economic investment and development particularly in areas of high social deprivation. The conference was also addressed by the party's equality spokesperson Dr. Dara O'Hagan.
Ms de Brún said:
``Equality and human rights must be at the heart of any successful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. In the current discussions with the two governments we have placed these matters high on the political agenda. This is particularly true in the areas of economic investment and development. A peace process that does not deliver political and economic change for the better to citizens is failing in one of its primary objectives.
``Sinn Fein has placed equality and human rights firmly on the talks agenda. If we are to speak of implementing the Good Friday Agreement, then people who have suffered most over the years need to see a new beginning for them and for the communities in which they live. Indeed, equality is a central requirement of any stable and cohesive society, and all the more so in our society where discrimination has been used as a tool of division and political power.
``To make progress on the commitments to equality in the Good Friday Agreement, particularly where economic development is concerned, we need to focus on those commitments that have been consistently let down by the promise of change in the past. If we cannot break the cycle in these areas, then it won't happen at all.''
Dr. O'Hagan warned that legislation, while crucial, is not in itself sufficient to tackle structural discrimination. She said:
``While legislation is clearly necessary of itself it is not sufficient to tackle structural inequalities. To do that effectively there needs to be a co-ordinated and integrated strategy involving legislation and economic and social policies. The pro-active and urgent pursuit of an equality agenda is critical to building confidence that there is a real attempt to move forward at this time.
``Equality cannot be simply an illusion. There must be full accountability for equality measures; genuine and full participation to ensure that citizens feel their concerns are taken into account and reflected in decisions which affect them; goals and time-tables for its implementation and regular review and assessment of progress and impact.
``Sinn Fein has therefore worked through negotiations at the highest level, through ongoing campaigning to improve the delivery of the equality agenda and through our everyday work with those communities at the `hard end' as they strive to bring about real, positive and lasting change.
``We need to see regeneration initiatives for such communities, worked out with these communities with targets and timetables for the outcomes sought.''
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