Speaking after Sinn Féin submitted a response to the Equality Commission’s consultation on Section 75 Statutory Equality and Good Relations Duties, the Newry Armagh MLA commented:
“There needs to be stronger political coherence, leadership and sustained commitment in order to effectively address equality outcomes.
“Sinn Féin welcome the recommendations and proposed actions outlined in the report and the commitment from the Equality Commission to review the use their investigations powers.
“We have significant concerns regarding the Equality Commission’s indication that Section 75 Duties are not being effectively implemented by public authorities and believe that the Commission must addresses issues of non-compliance.
“Sinn Fein recommend that the Equality Commission collect and report statistics relating to screening and Equality Impact Assessments undertaken by public authorities and that they issue guidance in order to ensure a standardised approach to equality screening exercises carried out by public authorities.
“Sinn Féin recommend that the Equality Commission produce guidance and direction which clearly clarifies the steps required from public authorities to fully comply with Section 75.
“The Equality Commission should adopt a renewed approach to equality enforcement and enhance their enforcement powers.
“Sinn Féin welcome the direction from the Commission that Public authorities must have arrangements in their Equality Schemes to publish information, including the results of their assessments of the likely impact of policies on the promotion of equality of opportunity.
“It is Sinn Féin’s position that the focus upon public authorities, in relation to the implementation of the Section 75 duties, should shift from the processes contained within an Equality Scheme towards impacts and better outcomes and we would recommend that the Equality Commission issue clear guidance regarding due regard and the duty which this places upon public authorities.
“We believe that a standard protocol for the collection, maintenance and analysis of data should be implemented across the public sector.
“The Equality Commission should adopt a proactive approach to data collection data monitoring across equality groups and provides guidance to public authorities on the collection and analysis of data required in Screening and Equality Impact Assessments.”