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

By Declan Kearney

Published 07/11/2013

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.

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