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Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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

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Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Snippet Contents:

I commend my colleagues, Deputies Jim O’Callaghan and Fiona O’Loughlin, for their work on this Bill and their commitment to fighting discrimination. As a republican party, Fianna Fáil is committed to fighting discrimination and inequality. We have a proven track record in advancing equality proposals. The two major parts of equality legislation in Ireland were introduced by Fianna Fáil. However, we believe the current legislation needs to be strengthened to continue the fight against inequality.
A growing problem in recent years is discrimination based on socioeconomic or social background. Many people living in disadvantaged areas have found it difficult to secure jobs simply because of where they live. Their applications are not being considered on merit and instead they face arbitrary barriers which have a detrimental impact on their lives. This form of inequality needs to be tackled. Given the current housing crisis, many people are no longer able to live in their area of choice. It is now determined by cost and how much a person is earning. Someone's address should not determine whether he or she is suitable to be employed. Being rejected after a job interview can severely dent someone's confidence. Many people I have met during the years tortuously dwell on being turned down. Rejection is very unpleasant but to lose out on a job because of where one lives is a bitter pill to swallow. If someone is suitably qualified and able to perform a job, his or her address should not and must not be a determining factor.
If the Bill were to be enacted, employers would not be able to discriminate against a job applicant because he or she came from what would be perceived as a disadvantaged address or an area associated with higher levels of criminality or anti-social behaviour. Similarly, children applying for admission to schools could not face discrimination on the basis of their address. In the past few years, school boards of management have come under increasing pressure because schools are oversubscribed. I particularly welcome the Admission to Schools Bill, which explicitly bans discrimination in school admissions. Every school must be welcoming of every young person, regardless of his or her race, ability or disability and, now, address.
There is evidence of significant discrimination on the ground of socioeconomic status in key areas such as employment, education and housing. The economic crisis has exacerbated this discrimination and the ensuing inequality. The Bill aims to address this issue. The current legislation sets out nine grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, namely, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community. Ireland is changing, as we saw clearly when the marriage equality referendum took place and a majority voted that marriage could be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their sex. The Marriage Act 2015 amended marriage law to give effect to the constitutional amendment.
Persons who are living in poverty or poor neighbourhoods and who are unemployed and relying on social protection payments experience discrimination based on their socioeconomic status. It creates a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape. This perpetuates their disadvantaged status. Some of these instances of discrimination can only be tackled effectively by using a socioeconomic status ground. It is accepted that this ground would be more difficult to police than many of those mentioned in the legislation. Nonetheless, the very fact that it would be contained in legislation is important, as it would send a strong message to employers and service providers that discrimination of this nature was not permitted.