Significant advances have been made in recent years to address inequality in Irish society, with the Government’s commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive and equal society re-affirmed through the Programme for Government commitments to achieve social solidarity, equality of opportunity and economic equity for all.
The suite of national equality strategies, overseen and coordinated by my Department, act as the central policy framework adopted by Government to address inequality across Irish society. The strategies include the National Strategy for Women and Girls (NSWG), the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy (NTRIS), the Migrant Integration Strategy (MIS), the National Disability Inclusion Strategy (NDIS), the National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy, the National LGBTI+ Strategy for Youth and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities (CES).
The implementation of each equality strategy is overseen by a steering committee which draws together State and non-State actors to deliver a better quality of life for all through targeted actions to promote social inclusion and improved access to public services. I chair the meetings of the committees charged with the monitoring and oversight of the strategies, with the exception of the National Disability Inclusion Strategy steering group which is chaired by my colleague the Minister of State, Deputy Anne Rabbitte, and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities which is chaired by Fergus Finlay.
As some of these strategies near their conclusion, I will work with stakeholders to examine what has been achieved over their term and how we can bring forth the next iterations of those strategies and ensure they are even more robust and effective.
The role of monitoring the prevalence of discrimination and prejudice in Irish society is undertaken by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) which is Ireland’s national human rights and equality institution and is an independent public body that accounts directly to the Oireachtas. Its purpose is to promote and protect human rights and equality in Ireland and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State. In mid-October 2020 the transfer took place of the Governance function of IHREC from the Department of Justice and Equality to my Department.
The Programme for Government also contains a commitment to examine the introduction of a new ground of discrimination, based on socio-economic disadvantaged status, to the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts. Work is underway to examine how this commitment can be implemented.
On 22 June 2021, I announced my intention to conduct a review of the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts to examine the functioning of the Acts and their effectiveness in combatting discrimination and promoting equality. The first phase of a public consultation process will be launched shortly, inviting the views of the public and interested organisations on their own experience of the legislation and where they would recommend amendments. Further consultation will continue in the autumn with a view to bringing legislative proposals on some aspects on the Programme for to Government in 2022.