Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 6 Dec 1995

Vol. 459 No. 4

Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Equal Status Legislation.

Michael Woods


13 Dr. Woods asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the plans, if any, he has to exempt holders of liquor licences and other traders in sensitive positions from the provisions of the Equal Status Bill. [18241/95]

Michael Woods


15 Dr. Woods asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the plans, if any, he has to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities through legislation as has been done in the United States of America; and his views on this matter. [18242/95]

Brendan Smith


23 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform the current stage of preparation of the Equal Status Bill; when the Bill will be published; the consultations, if any, he has had with representative associations or organisations in the service sector which have expressed concern about the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18261/95]

Trevor Sargent


41 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform his views on the adequacy of present legislation to ensure that racism and discrimination against homosexuals do not go unpunished by the law; and the plans, if any, he has to introduce legislation in this area. [18268/95]

Michael McDowell


46 Mr. M. McDowell asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform when the equal status legislation will be published; and if he intends to await the report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities before publishing the Bill. [18229/95]

Brendan Kenneally


47 Mr. Kenneally asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform if he intends to remove the right of retailers to refuse service to a customer where no reason is given for this refusal in the proposed Equal Status Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18265/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13, 15, 23, 41, 46 and 47 together.

I intend to bring forward two pieces of anti-discrimination legislation — the Employment Equality Bill dealing with discrimination in the workplace and the Equal Status Bill covering non-employment areas. Both Bills will prohibit discrimination in their respective areas on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, colour, nationality, national or ethnic origin and membership of the travelling community.

The Equal Status Bill is now being prepared and I hope to bring it forward in 1996. Any relevant recommendations of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities will, when available, be considered in the finalisation of that legislation.

There has been considerable consultation on the proposed Equal Status Bill and a discussion paper was circulated to 80 outside bodies in July 1993. Among the bodies in the service sector with which I or my officials have had meetings in relation to this Bill are the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation, Irish Insurance Federation, Licensed Vintners' Association, Vintners' Federation of Ireland and Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. When the Equal Status Bill has been approved by the Government and published, there will be an opportunity to debate how relevant issues should be addressed.

I would like to draw the Deputies' attention to the following passage from the report of the Task Force on the Travelling Community:

While legislation alone will not put an end to the discrimination faced by the traveller community, it will make an essential contribution to this task. It will provide a catalyst for changing the context within which conflicts and stereotypes are generated. It will give travellers a legal means of redress against discrimination. It will be a statement of significant weight from Government of the travellers' status in Irish society and of the unacceptability of discrimination. In the Irish context, it is important that equal status legislation in specifying its protection of ethnic groups would also specifically name the traveller community as being protected.

Will the Minister confirm that the insurance industry has been given a guarantee that it will be granted an exemption on economic grounds and, if so, has he considered exempting the licensed trade which argues that the Bill may in practice be unworkable and create great difficulties for publicans given that they have to maintain an orderly house, deal with those who distribute drugs, troublemakers and those who have had too much to drink? The trade should produce its own proposals to deal with the problems involved. It seems that the Minister's proposals would prove to be unworkable.

I am not aware that a guarantee has been given to any organisation or body in connection with the equal status legislation. The equal status legislation heads were approved by the previous Government, of which Deputy Woods was a member and no one knows its broad parameters better than him. When the Bill is published, and the particular conditions formulated, there will be time for discussion on this matter. Any steps that the vintners or anyone else might take in the interim, to alleviate complaints in areas of discrimination, would be welcome and helpful in making progress on the issue.

When Deputy Woods discusses exempting groupings, what is the connotation of his argument? Does an exemption mean granting a licence to discriminate? If all parties in the House wish to introduce legislation to outlaw discrimination in certain circumstances, that is a worthwhile and necessary objective. It is the policy of the Government — and of the previous administration which adopted the draft legislation. Exactly how it will be achieved, and within what parameters, is a matter for detailed discussion. The House will have every opportunity to debate the matter in due course.

The Minister is aware that all sides of the House will support the elimination of discrimination. When one approaches the detail of achieving this — under one Bill, for example people are commanded, at the risk of losing their licence, to maintain an orderly house — we must inquire how it might be accomplished with the type of proposals put forward by the Minister. The Minister raised the question of travelling people. As I understand it, the issue in relation to travelling people represents a proportionately small percentage of the problems most people in the licensed trade, supermarkets and various other areas have with the Minister's proposals. Far greater problems are being experienced with the current levels of shoplifting in supermarkets and stores. The security industry is experiencing difficulty in maintaining security in these areas. They can, however, pinpoint people about to break into cars.

The way the system works at present is that thieves are identified by means of video equipment. Proposals have been put forward to place cameras on the main streets of our cities to identify people about to, or likely to, commit offences. These people could be moved on by the relevant authorities in the interests of maintaining order. Supermarket owners and managers are very concerned about this issue. I believe the Minister could find a practical, workable solution to this problem.

The Deputy's contribution was more of a statement than a question. However, the legislation will contain nothing to inhibit a commercial firm from excluding shoplifters, troublemakers, drug dealers, etc., from their premises. The legislation will have no impact on that kind of situation.