CAJ briefing papers: what would TBUC ‘Good Relations’ impact assessments look like?

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Date: 23 June 2014

CAJ produced two briefing papers for Community Relations Week last week which have now been published on our website.

The briefing papers relate to the proposal in the Northern Ireland Executive’s 'Together: Building a United Community' (TBUC) Strategy, to bring forward legislation to change  ‘Equality Impact Assessments’ (EQIAs) required under the existing statutory equality duty to formally include ‘good relations’ considerations and to turn the Equality Commission into an ‘Equality and Good Relations Commission’.  

The two briefing papers cover:

Briefing Paper 1: ‘Good Relations’ and Equality Impact Assessments, safeguards and background [available here]

This paper takes stock of the background and nature of concerns about the risks of introducing ‘good relations’ into Equality Impact Assessments, outlines the safeguards which were introduced at the time the original legislation and how defining the concept of ‘good relations’ on the face of legislation may provide a remedy to existing concerns.

Briefing Paper 2: The Equality Commission’s Raymond McCreesh Park investigation implications and analysis for proposed ‘Equality and Good Relations Impact Assessments’ [available here]

In April 2014 the Equality Commission published its investigation report into Newry and Mourne Councils decision, originally in 2001, to name a Council-run play park after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. The Commission concluded that the Council had breached its statutory Equality Scheme by its actions. The decision was unusual in that it found substantive breaches of the equality and good relations duties. The decision provides an insight into how the Commission may interpret any expanded ‘good relations’ duties.

This paper examines the implications of the McCreesh decision in the context of TBUC including:

  • The implication in McCreesh that flying the Union Flag from Council leisure facilities may breach Equality Schemes;
  • Concerns that undefined ‘good relations’ issues may displace ‘bread and butter’ issues as focus of Equality Impact Assessments under the planned TBUC changes;
  • The evolution of interpretations of substantive breaches of the equality and good relations duties and the precedents set in McCreesh;
  • The risks of subjectivity in equality duty assessments of policies which constitute ‘significant chill factors’;
  • The risks of ‘good relations’ duties constituting a policy veto for unionism or nationalism.

See also:

The TBUC legislation also plans to include a definition of sectarianism, see Expert Briefing Paper by Dr Robbie McVeigh “ Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: Towards a definition in law” published by the CAJ-UNISON convened Equality Coalition.  (Available here)

CAJ produced research ‘Unequal Relations’ into the existing interpretation of good relations in impact assessments, the publication of this coincided with the launch of the TBUC strategy in May 2013, this is available here.

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