Equality and Good Relations
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (the Act) requires a public authority, in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between:-
- Persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation
- Between men and women generally
- Between persons with a disability and persons without
- Between persons with dependants and persons without
Without prejudice to these obligations, a public authority is also required, in carrying out its functions, to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.
Schedule 9 of the Act requires each public authority to produce an Equality Scheme stating how it proposes to fulfil the duties. The Equality Scheme must be submitted to the to the Equality Commission for approval and Public Authorities are also required to conduct a review of the scheme within 5 years and inform the Commission of the outcome of that review.
The Department for Employment and Learning has endeavoured to ensure that the necessary resources, in terms of people, time and money, are in place to meet the Section 75 duties and to mainstream equality. The Department has had a specialist Equality Unit since 1995 and had already developed considerable equality research, evaluation and statistical expertise to inform policy development. Awareness raising and training have also been constant features of the Department’s efforts to ensure the mainstreaming of equality.