[Sinn Fein]

9th June 2003

Sinn Fein backs Equality Coalition demands

Minister's proposals set "dangerous precedent"

Sinn  Fein Spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights Aengus Ó SnodaighTD  has announced that Sinn Fein is backing the Equality Coalition's demand thatthe Minister for Justice withdraw his proposals to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Bill  by  removing  the Equality Tribunal's jurisdiction in discrimination cases relating to licensed premises and allowing publicans to set their own age limits for  access,  on  the  grounds that this will have the effect of undermining the Equal Status Act.  Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Everyone   has   a   right   to  equal  treatment  and  to  protection  against discrimination.   There are no exceptions to this, and therefore there can be no exemptions from equality laws - they must apply equally to everyone. There is no doubt  that  the Minister's proposals to make exceptions in the case of licensed premises will establish a dangerous precedent that could potentially unravel allthe  equality  legislation  gains  made  to  date.  It sends a signal that if an interest  group  has  the  money  and the power they can successfully lobby this government for an exemption from compliance with this law, and the rights of the marginalised  in our society can just be binned.  This is ludicrous.  It makes amockery of our equality laws.  Such proposals cannot be allowed to stand.

"The  Minister  has  made  no  secret of the fact that he opposes a rights-based society.   Yet as Minister for Justice and Equality he has a duty to ensure that all  are  treated  equally  under  the law.  If he cannot do this, he should not continue to hold the office of Minister.

"Sinn  Fein  believes  that, rather than limiting the scope of the equality laws the Minister should be looking at ways of strengthening the equality legislation by  extending  the  grounds to include trade union membership, political opinionand  status  of  formerly incarcerated persons.  As well, non-discrimination and promotion of equality should be statutory duties, not optional.

"Equality  rights  threaten  nobody.  Indeed  they  are a fundamental measure of social progress."

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