[Sinn Fein]

12 June 1998

Equality - the foundation for a political settlement

Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle member Bairbre de Brun and other senior party figures, this morning held a press conference in Belfast at which they presented Sinn Fein's detailed response to the British government's White Paper ``Partnership for Equality'. Ms de Brun described the White Paper as an ``inadequate response to the problem of deep rooted structural, political and religious discrimination and inequality''. She added ``it fails to meet the standards set in the Good Friday Agreement.''

Ms de Brun outlined a comprehensive Sinn Fein position which demands that

``The White Paper must be reassessed to make its proposals consistent with the Good Friday Agreement. New and revised legislation must be completed by policies such as PAFT and TSN, which are properly implemented and resourced.

``Central to the success of any anti-discrimination programme is the creation of a Department of Equality. That will be a priority for Sinn Fein. We regard it as being of critical importance to the equality agenda: as a clear signal of serious intent about this core matter. We hold equality to be the foundation for a political settlement''

Ms de Brun said:

``The issue of jobs discrimination has been a critical issue since the Civil Rights Campaign was launched 30 years ago in 1968. In 1973 a British government report stated that: `Affirmative action involves ... deliberate programmes under which equality of opportunity may be achieved. It sets out consciously and systematically to create this equality. It acknowledges that, in this way, employment proportions, by and large, will automatically reflect the denominational ratios in the community as a whole.'

``We have been waiting thirty years for this automatic reflection of equality in employment. It is not yet visible. The political will to, `consciously and systematically ... create this equality' has been absent.

``The Equality agenda was a central feature of Sinn Fein's agenda in the negotiations that concluded on Good Friday. Our position was outlined in our submission to the talks process entitled `For a Future as Equals.'

``Equality remains a primary focus for Sinn Fein.

``The commitments entered into by all the parties to the agreement, in relation to the equality issue, broaden and deepen the debate and commitments to action beyond the SACHR report and the White Paper. These formally agreed commitments now need to be implemented. The effect must be significant change within tangible time scales.

``The SACHR report was based on a two and a half year study of the legislation and government programmes to tackle discrimination, resulting in a detailed agenda for action. ``Sinn Fein believes that the agenda proposed by SACHR has the potential to reduce inequalities in the north of Ireland.

``It is unacceptable that many of SACHR's recommendations have been rejected, ignored or at best, have been interpreted in a minimalist way in the White Paper. This is precisely what happened in 1987.

``The issue is about change, what is required to get it and within what timescale. There is a lack of recognition on the part of the British government of the urgent need for fundamental change now, and of the need to introduce mechanisms which will produce movement towards equality in the short term. We set out below some of the mechanisms which we believe are essential.''


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