Wasteful equality industry needs trimming, says MP

Northern Ireland’s ‘equality industry’ is spending millions providing only “limited” help for minorities and needs trimming down, an MP has said.

“Over the last ten years or so we have seen the emergence of various quangos, all of which are connected in one way or another with promoting equality,” said DUP MP Sammy Wilson according to the Belfast News Letter.

At the same time, “the Government has been churning out reams of legislation connected with promoting equality”, Mr Wilson said.

Yet while these laws have “served to make an awful lot of lawyers an awful lot richer”, they have done only “a limited amount to advance the role of minority groups in our society”, Mr Wilson pointed out.

Large amounts of money, he said, are being “pumped into” the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), Equality Commission (EC) and Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

“The functions performed by these three bodies could be exercised by one streamlined commission”, he said.

“There is clearly scope for saving taxpayers’ money by merging the three commissions and downsizing the size of the quango that is produced as a result of the merger.”

The NIHRC, tasked with producing a Bill of Rights for the Province as part of the Belfast Agreement, has been heavily criticised for going beyond its original brief.

Concerns have been raised about the impact the NIHRC’s recommendations for the Bill could have on religious liberty.

The NIHRC also wants a ban on smacking, and has asked the Government to respond to UN calls for a consultation on abortion access in the Province.

The NIHRC was joined by the Equality Commission in opposing The Christian Institute’s 2007 judicial review of new ‘gay rights’ laws in Northern Ireland which it was feared would interfere with religious liberty.

Despite the intervention of the two quangos the judge, Mr Justice Weatherup, agreed with many of the Institute’s concerns and quashed harassment provisions in the Province’s Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley, prompted controversy earlier this year when she compared smacking to child abuse.

She spent more than £200,000 of public funds on a series of unsuccessful court cases attempting to make smacking illegal in the Province. In March she admitted that “financial constraints” meant her campaign would be abandoned.

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