Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

'The idea of a DUP discussion on equality at the annual conference just doesn't add up'

DUP leader Peter Robinson
DUP leader Peter Robinson

Imagine this month's DUP annual conference featuring a key policy debate on economic and social equality…

Somehow the idea of a DUP discussion on equality just doesn’t add up.

Society is judged on how it treats its most marginalised and disadvantaged citizens. That extends to political parties.

Equality and respect set a touchstone test for us all.

The old unionist one Party state here failed the test.

The Good Friday Agreement principles established equality and respect as absolute rights for every citizen in the north regardless of creed, politics, sexuality, ability or ethnicity.

But we can’t simply pick out the bits of the equality agenda which suit, and ignore the rest.

Equality and respect are fundamental to progressive change and social justice.

Some DUP ministers and other unionists have a different view, and that’s their right. But in a society with diverse, even conflicting views on social policy, Executive ministers are obliged to treat everyone equally, including gay and lesbian members of our community.

We need more equality, not less.

So…

Full equality for the LGBT community requires legislation.

John O’Dowd’s continued reform of education in promoting the Common Funding Formula, ending transfer tests, and tackling educational disadvantage among Protestant and Catholic children is essential.

It’s why an integrated infrastructure, industrial investment and jobs creation/retention strategy is needed west of the Bann.

Attempts by DUP ministers to undermine the objective criteria for tackling disadvantage and poverty in areas of greatest need must also be stopped.

The equality agenda sets out a template for the type of society our community deserves.

The question is whether we all really support what that means, and if some unionists, and particularly DUP ministers, are even prepared to sit the equality test.

Some consideration of this at the DUP conference would be welcome.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk