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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 Jim O'Callaghan

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Jim O'Callaghan

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Snippet Contents:

It may be daft, but that is our system.
I assure the Minister of State that I recognise that some analysis of this Bill needs to be conducted, and my colleagues on the justice committee and I would be happy to carry out pre-legislative scrutiny in respect of it. I am not seeking to steamroll through our legislation just for the sake of getting it passed. Rather, it is an advancement of our equality laws. Care needs to be taken in that regard.
The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, and the Minister of State asserted that the Bill was ambiguous and would be difficult to enforce. It must first be acknowledged that both seem to recognise that there is an issue, namely, that people are being discriminated against unfairly on the basis of what I have described as their disadvantaged socioeconomic background. I accept that this is a more difficult ground to police and enforce than is the case with the nine other grounds. Regarding the gender ground, for instance, it is clear if a person is male or female. The point being made by the Government is that it is more difficult to assess whether a person is from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background. I accept that, but a part of the responsibility of legislators is to try to develop and advance the law. Pay discrimination on the ground of gender was deemed unacceptable previously. We recognised that in the 1970s, but we need to keep developing our equality laws. All constitutional rights must be updated. They are dynamic. Deputies have a responsibility to ensure that constitutional rights are recognised in statutory frameworks to ensure they take into account ongoing difficult social circumstances.
There is a recognition in the House that people are being discriminated against because of where they come from and their backgrounds. I have tried in the Bill to give as best a definition as I can to describe "disadvantaged socioeconomic status", but let us be clear, it will be more difficult than describing gender. However, just because something is difficult does not mean it is something we should not attempt to do. The definition that Deputy O'Loughlin and I have set out refers to a particular identifiable status of social or economic disadvantage - this is not difficult to understand - resulting from poverty, level or source of income, homelessness, place of residence or family background. These are not difficult to decipher or interpret.
The most important aspect of equality legislation is that it is stated in statute that one cannot discriminate against people on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation. It would be an addition to our equality legislation were we to include in that disadvantaged socioeconomic status. It is difficult to prove breaches of any of these equality grounds. If someone decides not to employ a person because she is a woman, it is difficult to prove, although some of the recent circumstances cited by the Ministers seem to have made that easier. In practice, it is difficult to prove any breach of these grounds, but that is not a reason for not doing this.