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What of equality, rights and social justice?

October 12th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Disability, Equality, Equality Authority, Green Party, Irish Politics

In the mid 90’s the joke about the Greens was that they didn’t care much about divorce once the fridge was disposed of correctly in the separation.

This was the opinion of many regarding Green Party commitment to social justice issues. I know that this is an unfair description with regard to many Green Party members and spokespersons. Ciaran Cuffe has spoken out frequently on matters of equality and been the target of much anger (including some from yours truly) regarding the cuts on equality and other government policies. There are many lesbians and gay men in membership in the Green Party and members with disabilities who are vocal on issues concerning equality.

The Green Party have been seen as the protectors of minorities and ‘champion’ of the marginalised in a coalition with Fianna Fáil. However after two years in power and now this renewed programme for government I think that description can be binned and probably created unfair expectations of a party of 6 TD’s.  (I don’t think there will be a lot of lesbians and gay men voting for the Green Party next time around.)

I didn’t comment on the Renewed Programme for Government yesterday as I was busy covering the event and encouraging coverage and communication on the liveblog. Much has been written elsewhere about the aspirational nature of the document.

The introduction to the section on social affairs is  entitled A More Caring and Just Society and is ripe for buzzword bingo in a time of fiscal rectitude.

Promoting care and a sense of personal responsibility for the welfare of others is one of society’s greatest moral challenges. In these straightened times we must avoid the temptation to retreat to self interest as a method of survival. We are obliged to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

A caring society respects its citizens equally while recognising their difference, it celebrates diversity.

The way we treat our sick is a true test of our values and the effectiveness of our social provision. The Government is determined to reform the healthcare system to improve the services to all people, regardless of income.

Where the unemployed, the young and the old need the safety net of Government support it will be provided as a matter of right. Childhood will be cherished as a special time requiring special protection.

The mentally ill, the disabled and the marginalised should not fear isolation. Our society should and must respect the right of our citizens equally while continuing to recognise their individual differences

I got a few messages yesterday whilst in the RDS asking me about the Equality section from friends who wondered if there was going to be a new Department of Culture and Equality. It seems there will be no such department and no commitment to reinstating the budget of the Equality Authority or the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Equality
· We will monitor, report annually and respond to the impact of the current
economic conditions on gender equality in employment, political participation, access to public services and care infrastructure, to ensure that gender equality continues to advance in difficult times.
· We will ensure the introduction of the Civil Partnership Bill to the Oireachtas before the end of 2009 and its early passage and implementation.
· We will review legislation in the area of guardianship, custody and access,
following the publication of the report of the Law Reform Commission Report
on Legal Aspects of Family Relationships.
· We will introduce legal recognition of the acquired gender of transsexuals.
· We will proceed, subject to appropriate Oireachtas approval, with proposals to hold a constitutional referendum to consider amending Article 41.2 of the
Constitution, broadening the reference to the role of women in the home to
one which recognises the role of the parent in the home.

That’s that then? And can someone let me know is the term ‘acquired gender’ the one in use by the transgendered or gender identity groups? It is not one that I would find respectful or understanding of the issues involved but I may be out of touch?

The Social Welfare section of the document is vague and troubling in it’s brevity.  No mention of protection from forthcoming cuts.  Nothing on child poverty and nothing on the cost of disability.

On disability there is a continued commitment to the National Disability Strategy (NDS). However if the commitment and policy action already displayed is to be taken as evidence of action in the future I doubt we’ll see much progress on the strategy. Millions has been cut from budgets for services for people with disabilities already with very little oversight or reaction.

Two points of note :

We will publish a “NDS Recession Implementation Plan?, central to
which will be the availability of accessible public and social services to
vindicate the rights of people with disabilities to full participation
within the State.

and

· We will advances measure [sic] to specifically strengthen collaborative
working across Departments, Public Bodies and the voluntary
disability sector to ensure person centred public service provision.

(Psst am I alone in noticing if you were to abbreviate the new commitment to the strategy on a recession plan for the NDS you would come up with NDS RIP. )

So anyone else bothered reading the document? Did you hear any Green Party spokesperson talking about the equality aspects of the programme?  Will we hear from Fianna Fáil talk about it or defend it? It is after all their document also – though you’d be pushed to think about it that way after this weekend.

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