Promoting Equality in a Time of Crisis
Monday, 16 March 2009
Former chief executive officer of the Equality Authority Niall Crowley delivered a public talk to a full lecture theatre at NUI Galway on 12 March. Speaking about 'a deepening equality crisis' in Ireland, Mr Crowley described how the statutory infrastructure developed over 20 years to promote equality has been dismantled in a matter of months. Mr Crowley was joined by Michael D. Higgins T.D., Donncha O' Connell of NUI Galway's School of Law, Dr Vinodh Jaichand from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, and a panel of civil society groups, including shOUT!, the Galway Traveller Movement, the Galway Refugee Support Group, the Community Platform, and Action for Equality. The event, which was attended by a cross-section of the public, brought attention to the assertion that the Government is sidelining equality issues and the protection of human rights. For Galway based group shOUT!, this has serious implications as they see the cuts adding to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people's experience of discrimination. Hannagh McGinley from the Galway Traveller Movement said that Travellers still continue to face high levels of discrimination and that such marginalised groups very much need independent agencies such as the Equality Authority. Mr Crowley cited the experience of the Combat Poverty Agency which was 'subsumed' into the Department of Social and Family Affairs; the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission both left unviable by drastic budget cuts; and the recently abolished National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. Calling for a 'strategic response to the economic crisis that is founded on the values of equality, diversity and non-discrimination', Mr Crowley said Ireland needed to defend marginalised groups, monitor the watchdogs and hold bodies like the Equality Authority to account. The event was organised by NUI Galway's Development Education and Research Network (DERN). Development education promotes an international development and human rights perspective, with an emphasis on equality and non-discrimination. The event linked local and national issues and debates on inequality with the broad challenges of development and inclusion in a time of global economic crisis.