Why Sinn Fein's definition of equality is everyone else's idea of inequality
From education to same-sex marriage, republicans are hijacking legitimate causes for their own cynical ends, writes Doug Beattie
True equality is something that should touch every corner of society. It is in all our interests to promote equality in all its forms in order to develop a tolerant, inclusive and respectful society without barriers.
When it comes to Sinn Fein's true attitude to equality, Gerry Adams himself gave the game away in November 2014. Equality is a Trojan horse to break unionists. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sinn Fein have decided to use an equality strategy in their latest bid for votes and political advantage. Their aim: to shy away from their party's support for an organisation responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in our recent history.
So, let's talk about equality in education.
Discrimination on the basis of religion is still allowed by law when it comes to appointing teachers in schools fully funded by the state in Northern Ireland.
If Sinn Fein were really striving for equality, why did they block - through a petition of concern - an Ulster Unionist legislative amendment at the last Assembly to bring fair employment regulations into the teaching profession?
Why did they not raise a finger to lift the restrictive practices surrounding the requirement to obtain a religious education certificate in order to become a primary school teacher in the Catholic maintained education sector?
Equality of opportunity for teachers clearly isn't an issue for Sinn Fein's equality agenda.
As we continue the journey to a normal society, free from terrorism and violence, we strive to help those who were involved - former terrorists - to move on.
To receive the help they need in order for them to have a fulfilling life in society away from violence.
That is possibly one of the reasons why an Executive working group, chaired by the permanent secretary and funded by the Executive and supported by Sinn Fein, was set up to help ex-paramilitary prisoners, including dissident republicans.
Yet, when the Ulster Unionist Party brought to the floor of the Assembly a motion asking for military veterans to be represented at a working group in London, Sinn Fein voted against.
The same Sinn Fein crying for equality now.
Should all prisoners be treated equally, should they receive the same programmes in order to rehabilitate before they are released back into society? Sinn Fein don't think so.
They think that paramilitary prisoners - including dissident republicans - should receive special treatment, and continue to argue for special status. That is why they shamefully voted against a UUP motion to end the separated prison regime in HMP Maghaberry.
Do we need to be reminded of Sinn Fein's equality policy on victims?
Investigating the murder of Co Louth farmer Tom Oliver, killed by the IRA in 1991, would be counter-productive, according to Sinn Fein's leader. Yet Sinn Fein call for investigations and inquiries into the actions of British military personnel and the noisy minority follow those cries like sycophantic sheep.
The Sinn Fein chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council used his position to block an amendment to his own motion, which called for an investigation into the murder of independent councillor Patsy Kelly, believed to have been carried out by loyalist paramilitaries.
Why did he block the amendment? Because it sought to extend the motion to include the killings of all civilians and military personnel - some of which were murdered by republican terrorists.
In terms of Sinn Fein's commitment to an equality agenda, it is also worth looking at their actions and words regarding anything that is British-related.
In those councils where Sinn Fein dominate, they show no respect for the Union flag and do not allow it to be flown, even on designated days, to respect the sovereignty of the UK.
Sinn Fein also display hostility to our symbol of remembrance and reflection in the form of the poppy and have actively worked to create a climate whereby memorials to dead police officers and military personnel can only be displayed behind the wire of those particular establishments.
At the same time, Sinn Fein are quite content to promote their own symbols and a proliferation of memorials to terrorists in our villages, towns and estates, regardless of the hurt it inflicts on the victims and their families.
Sinn Fein's idea of equality is to eradicate Britishness while aggressively pursuing their republican agenda, which seeks to sanitise the terrorist campaign which sabotaged Northern Ireland for 30 years. They may talk of equality, but the old mantra of 'Brits Out' is still an integral part of their political DNA.
Equality on Sinn Fein's terms is a fostering of inequality.
Let us all be absolutely clear. Sinn Fein calling for an Irish Language Act, or the introduction of same-sex marriage, corrupts and belittles the campaigns that are being run by true, committed Irish language speakers and the LGBT community.
They have a political agenda, it's a Sinn Fein agenda, and they could not care less about equality as long as it promotes the party on both sides of the border.
Sinn Fein are political scavengers and opportunists. Their stance on the European Union is a prime example of their willingness to change tack, as is their hypocritical position on the Catalan region and Scottish independence.
As far as Sinn Fein are concerned, Spain should be sub-divided, Britain should be sub-divided, but, of course, there must be no internal border on the island of Ireland.
The sooner people realise they are being used by Sinn Fein, the sooner society can move forward.
If other parties want to support this unbalanced, biased and corrupted form of equality, that is up to them. But no amount of spin will deflect from what this is really all about - political advantage and power.
The lure of the trappings of office may be tempting for some, but what really matters is what is best for the country.
Sinn Fein want to distance themselves from their own bloody past. But the republican movement - of which Sinn Fein was such a central part - have so much blood on their hands that no amount of equality spin will wash that away.
Doug Beattie MC is Ulster Unionist MLA for Upper Bann