28th February 2003
Sinn Fein shine spotlight on Human Rights and Equality during the course of the negotiations
Sinn Fein spokesperson on Equality and Human rights, Bairbre de Brún, speaking in Belfast said: ``Republicans must be convinced that the British government will face up to its responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement by ushering in a new dispensation based on equality and the promotion and protection of human rights.
``The experience of northern nationalists and republicans is that we do not yet have equality and that people living in vulnerable nationalist communities continue to live under the threat of sectarian harassment and attack.
Equal and Representative
A concrete foundation for all of this is state institutions which are
- representative of the community as a whole, at all levels and in all their functions, and
- providing equality of treatment for the community as a whole.
We need equality and representativeness not only in the political institutions but in government departments, the judiciary and the legal system, the police and public services.
Ms de Brun continued:
`` During the course of the present talks, Sinn Fein has highlighted the fact that to achieve equality, we need to pay particular attention to its economic aspects. The failure to implement key areas of the Good Friday Agreement will frustrate this. We need to focus on those communities 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.
``Commitments in the Good Friday Agreement to measures aimed at eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities must be implemented. At present, Catholics continue to be more likely to be unemployed. They are at greater risk of living in lower income households and/or more dependent on benefits as well as greater risk of experiencing multiple deprivation. The latest figures from the Labour Force Religion Survey Report published only last week show that Catholic males remain twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestant males.
Sinn Fein proposals
We have clear proposals on all of these matters, including:
- timetabled, monitored measures and targets to eliminate the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities
- economic development targeted towards areas of greatest need
- measures to remove the benefit trap
- peace dividend to fund an enhanced equality and human rights agenda and help to eliminate the differential in unemployment
- effective mechanisms to restore momentum to the implementation of the Equality agenda and ensure that equality gained becomes equality sustained. In particular the Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission need adequate powers and resources.
- rights affirmed in the Good Friday Agreement to be entrenched in legislation.
- rights not given effect by the incorporation of the ECHR into domestic law north and south, the Single Equality Bill and the Bill of Rights, when they become law, to be given effective protection in strong anti-sectarian legislation, which upholds the right to freedom from sectarian harassment.
- implementation of the commitments in respect of the Irish language
- learning from international best practice with regard to victims and reconciliation
``All our people, irrespective of creed or political opinion must be afforded equality in all aspects of their lives. Equality poses a threat to no one. The British Government must honour its commitments with regards to promoting and achieving equality and human rights.''
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