[Sinn Fein]

28th January 2003

Unionists must join the search for Equality

Sinn Fein has called on unionists to join the search for equality, calling it an essential requirement of the Good Friday Agreement. Speaking today at a press conference in Belfast dealing with the issue of Equality Bairbre de Brún said: ``Commitments in the Good Friday Agreement to measures such as those aimed at eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the Protestant and Catholic communities must be implemented. All parties to the Agreement are obliged to be actively engaged in promoting the Equality Agenda. ``We are concerned, therefore, at the refusal of the Ulster Unionist Party to attend the recent Implementation Group meeting on Equality and Human Rights. We are also disappointed to hear UUP spokesperson, Dermot Nesbitt repeat previous claims that there is no discrimination in the Six-Counties and that there is no need for an Equality Commission, or for state action to address the unemployment differential. ``The most recent report on Community Differentials and New TSN states that Catholics are: . more likely to be unemployed . at greater risk of living in lower income households and/or . more dependant on benefits as well as at greater risk of experiencing multiple deprivation. ``To achieve equality, therefore, we need to pay particular attention to its economic aspects. The failure to implement key areas of the Good Friday Agreement will frustrate this. This is unacceptable. ``While recognising that deprivation is in no way confined to one community, the reality is that there are still structural issues that result in inequality between the communities. The response to this must include economic development in areas of greatest need, allowing communities to receive help commensurate with the level of need they experience. ``The Ulster Unionist Party presided over systematic discrimination from the foundation of the northern state. Some Ulster Unionist Party spokespersons appear oblivious to the injustice that they inflicted on the people including both Catholics and Protestants living in areas affected by discrimination and inequality. ``Institutional neglect must be tackled so that our people irrespective of creed or political opinion, are afforded equality in all aspects of their lives. Sinn Fein has specific proposals about the way in which this work can be taken forward. Equality poses a threat to no one, and the UUP must join the other parties in the promotion and achievement of equality and human rights.''

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