Irish Republican News · March 16, 2006
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Institutional inequality must end
Institutional inequality must end

The North’s Equality Commission is being urged to begin investigations of public institutions with records of discrimination.

After a series of meetings with the commission, assembly member Caitriona Ruane appealed for the body to use its statutory investigation powers for the first time against local authorities such as Lisburn City Council.

Ms Ruane was speaking alongside Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler at the launch of a campaign last week by the party to “expose and confront” discrimination across every sector of society in the North.

Sinn Féin wants to encourage greater use of equality laws, while challenging state agencies to discharge their obligations under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The new campaign is called “Smash discrimination anois”.

The party is also planning an offensive against councils across the North that have a history of discrimination, such as that in Lisburn.

A Sinn Féin delegation is to meet with the Equality Commission after it emerged the body has not carried out a single investigation into claims of discrimination on district councils.

Since it was set up in 1998, the commission has been asked on numerous occasions by both Sinn Féin and the SDLP to investigate policies adopted by unionist-dominated councils in Ballymena, Castlereagh and Lisburn.

However, it emerged yesterday that equality chiefs have yet to initiate a single probe into claims of discrimination on these councils.

Lisburn Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler, who is to meet with commission bosses today, accused them of “paying lip-service” to his party’s concerns.

Mr Butler described Lisburn as “the sectarian capital of the North” and highlighted the council’s record in the light of anti-Catholic attacks in the district.

“It’s no coincidence that the discrimination and the extent of it has got worse from last year’s local government election, where the DUP have been in dominance on the council.

“If you look at Lisburn, Ballymena, Ballymoney, where some of the worst sectarian attacks have taken place, it’s in areas where councillors showed a total intolerance of nationalist representatives.”

In the last year alone, Sinn Féin has asked the Equality Commission to carry out five separate investigations into Lisburn city council.

He said: “We want to know why the commission has not used its powers under equality legislation to investigate these councils.

“Catholics living in areas where there has been a clear bias shown against them will be shocked by this news.

“The commission has an obligation to investigate fully cases of discrimination when they arise, instead of merely paying lip-service to them.”

LOYALIST MUSEUM

Nationalists have also raised concerns over controversial government funding of a loyalist museum.

Britain’s Department for Social Development (DSD) has made a one hundred thousand pound payment to the project despite any proper funding application or economic appraisal, it has emerged.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the payment raised “questions about structured political bias.”

“There have been a litany of highly controversial and dubious decisions by BRO (Belfast Regeneration Office) in relation to allocation of resources and funding,” he said.

© 2006 Irish Republican News