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Ellis, Dessie

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Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017\Second Stage
Bills\Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017\Second Stage

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Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Deputy Dessie Ellis

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Dessie Ellis

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Snippet Contents:

Cuirim fáilte roimh an mBille seo, ach freisin na leasuithe atá ceangailte leis. I welcome this Bill and the proposed amendments.
Up to this point, the Irish Government has failed to introduce a new socio-economic status ground in equality legislation. This Bill will go some way towards ensuring Ireland meets its obligations under both EU and international law. It will, in effect, bring us into line with most progressive case law across Europe. The amendments the Bill proposes will prohibit discrimination on the basis of socio-economic status. We are all aware that people from areas regarded as being deprived, or areas with high rates of anti-social behaviour or crime, face significant discrimination, for example, in gaining employment or promotion.
It is a sad fact of life that, even in this age, people often have to disguise their home addresses for fear of being discriminated against when applying for a job or going for a job interview. Many people from my constituency, Dublin North-West, have come to me and told me about such discrimination. It has probably got worse during the long years of austerity. In fact, it has almost certainly increased the amount of inequality. This Bill, which amends the equality legislation, will help to break down the barriers to opportunity for people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Discrimination also occurs in housing and education. This is often based on socio-economic status. To their credit, many colleges and universities are increasingly recognising that people from certain deprived areas, or from more disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, are less likely to attend third level institutions or opt for further education. Many third level institutions have, and are putting in place, positive initiatives that both open and widen access to third level courses for students, regardless of their socio-economic background. The reality, however, is that students from certain areas regarded as being deprived or with high rates of anti-social behaviour are greatly under-represented at third level.
Today, many third level institutions are taking the initiative and, without the benefit of legislation, are helping to tackle social exclusion through innovative and targeted initiatives, often in partnership with businesses, local communities and various organisations across the education sector. Such positive moves by universities and colleges allow students from more deprived socio-economic backgrounds to realise their full academic potential.
As a society, we have made progress on equality and rights. The marriage equality referendum is an example. Discrimination against any person, on grounds of religion, ethnic background, disability, mental illness or gender, is anathema to the objectives of a progressive, modern society.
Over the years, I have met constituents who have been afraid to give their address for fear of discrimination or bias in the consideration of qualifications or even looking for a job. Equality should mean equality but that is not always the experience, particularly among those with working-class backgrounds. This is even more the case if they have a disability or suffer from mental illness. A measure of any society is how it treats citizens, especially the young and old, irrespective of their socio-economic background.
The amendment of section 2 of the Equal Status Act 2000 in subsection 1 is extremely important and should send out a strong signal that, irrespective of where one comes from or one's background, one should be treated on a par with others. It is one thing legislating for issues of equality but the only real judge is action. As we have seen regarding issues pertaining to Traveller and minority rights, the State has failed. Changing the mindset requires education and long-term initiatives. This Bill should send out a strong message. While it is not perfect and there are many issues arising, everyone should be supporting its thrust.