Dáil Éireann - Volume 427 - 04 March, 1993

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Elimination of Inequality.

13. Mr. Cox asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the institutional and administrative changes, if any, he intends to make to eliminate inequality for all groups in society that have suffered from disability, disadvantage or discrimination.

Mr. Taylor: I propose, first, to develop proposals for legislation in employment to prohibit discrimination on a wide range of grounds. I am examining the inclusion of grounds such as sex, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, religion, age, handicap, race, colour, nationality or national or ethnic origins including membership of the travelling community in this regard.

I will also bring forward anti-discrimination legislation in relation to the provision of goods, facilities and services and to the disposal of accommodation or other premises. In developing these legislative proposals, I will take account of any changes in institutional and administrative arrangements which may be desirable in the interests of promoting equality.

Miss Harney: The purpose of the question was to ascertain the meaning of the reference in the Programme for Government which gives a commitment to introducing a broad programme of institutional and administrative change. I gather from the Minister's reply that he [824] is just examining whether this will be necessary and I do not see the need for any further supplementaries.

Mr. Taylor: The creation of my Department represents a significant institutional and administrative initiative to allow for a greater focus on tackling inequalities. Other institutional changes may be necessary. For example, the Employment Equality Agency may have to be extended to cover areas other than employment. Consideration will have to be given to enforcement procedures to deal with discrimination that may arise. An equal opportunities commission, or a similar body will have to be considered in the context of that legislation.

Mr. Durkan: Has the Minister set any deadline for achieving legislative changes?

Mr. Taylor: It is difficult to set a deadline for such complex legislation. One has to be careful to set its parameters just right so as not to catch more than one intends or allow to escape things one wishes to catch in the legislation. It is a complex matter and it requires great care. I do not want to bring in legislation that will face challenges in the courts, or may be found to be unconstitutional or present other difficulties. For those reasons I am reluctant to give any deadline to the Deputy except to say that I, and the Government, regard it as a matter of priority. My Department will be working on it all the time. We intend to look at comparable legislation in other countries, particularly the UK and the United States, to see what they have done and learn from their mistakes.

I would point out that we are, and have been, very slow in bringing in legislation of this type. Similar legislation was introduced in the United Kingdom, for example, as far as back as 1975, and it is high time we tackled this issue. I do regard this as a matter of some importance.