Written Answers. - Equal Status.

John Gormley

Question:

38 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will be providing further resources to the Equality Authority to assist complainants in taking cases in District Courts around the country. [17236/03]

On its establishment in 1999, the Equality Authority was provided with significantly increased resources compared with its predecessor, the Employment Equality Agency. The revised Estimates for the Public Services for 2003 show that the grant-in-aid for the authority for 2003 is €5.16 million. Some 45 posts and eight contract posts are approved for its staffing. I am of the opinion that this level of resources is sufficient to enable the authority to carry out its statutory function to work towards the elimination of discrimination in our society.

I do not expect that additional resources will be required by the Equality Authority to assist complainants in taking cases of prohibited conduct, including discrimination, to the District Court. It is my intention that, under the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2003, the Equality Authority will have its existing powers of representation under the Equal Status Act 2000 transferred to the Intoxicating Liquor Bill in relation to prohibited conduct, including discrimination, directed against any person in licensed premises.

The Equality Authority has discretion under the Equal Status Act 2000 to grant assistance if it is satisfied that the case raises an important point of principle or it appears to the authority that it is not reasonable to expect the person to present adequately the case without assistance.

The assistance provided by the Equality Authority may be in a variety of forms, for example, the provision of case law precedent, legal advice, advice in relation to the running of the case, or legal representation. The Equality Authority has delegated the decision-making function in relation to which cases to support to the chief executive officer, subject to certain specified criteria and also subject to internal review by the board of the Equality Authority. The current interim criteria for representation were set out in an appendix to the annual report of 2002, copies of which were laid before the Oireachtas on 5 March 2003.

The decision on whether or not to provide representation before the District Court will rest with the Equality Authority on the same basis as representation is currently provided before the ODEI – the equality tribunal.