Soapbox: Disability, gender and sexual orientation policies hived off to Communities

Reprinted here with permission of Brian Barrington, a former SDLP advisor from his own Facebook page this morning…

One of the decisions made when the Northern Ireland Executive was first established was to keep all aspects of equality policy in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). There were two reasons for this.

First, because OFMDFM was the secretariat to the Executive. Therefore, any paper from a department going to the Executive could be scrutinised on equality grounds and, if it didn’t measure up, it could be kept off the Executive agenda until it did.

Second, it was considered better to keep equality at the centre rather than creating a separate department which could fall into DUP hands. Well goodbye to all that !

Because now new departments have been created and responsibility for disability, gender and sexual orientation policy has been hived off to the new Department for Communities.

And today when ministerial offices were allocated SF didn’t bother to nominate to it. So it fell to Paul Givan of the DUP. That’s the same Paul Givan who proposed the “conscience clause” bill last year in the Assembly.

The same Paul Givan who repeatedly avoided the question of whether he believed that sexual relations between persons of the same sex should be criminalised. 

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  • Zig70

    I reject the idea that the DUP should not have control of equality because they are some backward oddballs. They represent the majority and as such hold a mirror to our society. If you want a more liberal society, it’s what you must deal with rather than wish it away.

  • Peter Mc Williams

    The Assembly backed equal rights for marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year. And it was blocked using “petition of concern”. The so called petition had more tippex than a rough draft of a student essay. With Spratts name taken out and replaced by the newly (unelected) appointment of Pengilly. Nobody should be expected to “wish” anything away when a clear majority of the mandate for Stormont are clearly in favour of gay rights.

    If the DUP thought this would not be backed in Northern Ireland, they would hold a referendum tomorrow. In the same respect Arlene calls on the Sinn Fein for a vote for Irish unity constantly.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I think it may be useful if you were to define what you mean by ‘represent the majority’. They may get more seats and more votes than any other party but they certainly don’t get 50%+ votes or seats in Northern Ireland.

  • Zig70

    Isn’t that they way our society works, you don’t vote, you don’t count. With our special system and poc, if you do vote, and it doesn’t agree with a party with more than 30seats, you still don’t count.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m really not sure what your point is here. I was simply pointing out that your use of the term majority is very different to the commonly understood interpretation.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Zig70, just because that’s “the way our society works” it does not make it somehow a good thing!! Have you encountered the work of the Israeli historian J. L. Talmon whose analysis of “Totalitarian Democracy” describes “a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participation in the decision-making process of the government”.

    In this context, the expression by representatives of the “will” of even a “majority” (a “majority” of just over 50% of our people in the case of our own polity) is in actual practice technically undemocratic in any ruefully meaningful sense!!! The refusal to vote for the woeful political “talent” which is on offer in our elections IS still a meaningful statement in itself by those electing not to participate, and thereby avoiding moral implication with what is going to be done in their name, but well beyond the slight mandate actually given by the voter’s selection of a few small points of agreement with those candidates actually on offer at the polls .

  • Kevin Breslin

    Surely having it OFMDFM meant that Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster were all a “Joint Minister for Equality” who had a mutual veto over their other joint office holder.

    Were any of these three really more likely to shift from the views of Paul Givan?

    We talk about Foster being something of a Progressive DUP face, but no one scrutinized and ask questions of her Equality role.