21st February 2003
Equality Commission told to re-examine caseload cut
Sinn Fein Equality Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Dr Dara O'Hagan has told the Equality Commission that they should re-examine their decision to cut their caseload by an estimated 75%.
Speaking after a meeting with the Equality Commission Dr O'Hagan said:
``The Equality Commission is the central avenue for people challenging discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere. The decision taken, entirely without consultation, to withdraw their support for people taking cases has had a massive and detrimental impact on the Equality Agenda. The result of this unilateral decision has been an estimated 75% drop in the number of cases supported by the Equality Commission. This means that potentially thousands of people will suffer.
``For many people taking a discrimination case it is a long and difficult process. To be told possibly two or three years down the line that the Equality Commission is going to re-assess the case and withdraw support is almost a double kick in the teeth.
``I accept that there is an issue around funding, and Sinn Fein have made the full implementation of the Equality Agenda a central requirement in our negotiations with the two governments on the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. This includes proper financial support for the Equality Commission.
``However, if we are serious about challenging discrimination, and given the recent unemployment differential figures that again highlight the reality that there has been no movement in reducing the differential between the two communities, then the Equality Commission must be seen to be a powerful tool in challenging discrimination, particularly religious and political discrimination.''
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