12 June 2003 Edition

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Sinn Féin backs Equality Coalition demands

Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has announced that Sinn Féin is backing the Equality Coalition's demand that the Minister for Justice withdraw his proposals to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. Michael McDowell wants to remove the Equality Tribunal's jurisdiction in discrimination cases relating to licensed premises, which would allow publicans to set their own age limits for access.

"Everyone has a right to equal treatment and to protection against discrimination," said the party's Dáil spokesperson on Justice, Equality, and Human Rights. "There are no exceptions to this, and therefore there can be no exemptions from equality laws - they must apply equally to everyone.

"There is no doubt that the Minister's proposals to make exceptions in the case of licensed premises will establish a dangerous precedent that could potentially unravel all the equality legislation gains made to date. It sends a signal that if an interest group has the money and the power they can successfully lobby this government for an exemption from compliance with this law, and the rights of the marginalised in our society can just be binned. This is ludicrous. It makes a mockery of our equality laws. Such proposals cannot be allowed to stand.

"The Minister has made no secret of the fact that he opposes a rights-based society. Yet as Minister for Justice and Equality he has a duty to ensure that all are treated equally under the law. If he cannot do this, he should not continue to hold the office of Minister.

"Sinn Féin believes that the Minister should be looking at ways of strengthening the equality legislation by extending the grounds to include trade union membership, political opinion and status of formerly incarcerated persons. As well, non-discrimination and promotion of equality should be statutory duties, not optional.

"Equality rights threaten nobody. Indeed, they are a fundamental measure of social progress."

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