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 The scuttling of the Equality Authority

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PostSubject: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:15 am

The government does this with any organisation/monitoring body that starts to make an impact. The agencies it has chosen to target in the recent round of cuts are precisely those who would be most vociferous on behalf of the most vulnerable to the economic crisis. In the Irish Times today Carol Coulter discusses the refusal of the government to allow the EA to continue to use its offices in Dublin in cost grounds - despite the fact that the office will continue to be used by the government - and the drastic 43% cut in its budget:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2008/1212/1228864714150.html
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:48 am

The CEO is just on Morning Ireland now giving some figures about the cuts. The CEO and board (?) tried to negotiate a 32% cut he is saying as well as delaying decentralisation to Roscrea. The move to Roscrea would mean the Agency is paying a lot lower rent but they didn't move ...

It'd be interesting to see what parts of their budget was cut but the CEO there is saying there is an effort to dismantle the body - the CEO is refusing to state his salary to Cathal MacCoille.

He ends by telling Cathal Mc the impact of the dismantling the body but he had only 10 seconds and didn't give a great answer. Will we hear more about this ? What does this body do or what did it do ?
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:02 pm

There was a Travellers NGO that was shut down overnight because of a poster critical of government.

Anyone who wants to deliver a serious critique has to be financially independent of Government imo.

It seemed to be a principled resignation. The decentralisation seems to be a mess, with duplicated staff. It may work better when there are no job prospects in Dubln and people just want to hang onto a job. Is that a good thing? I think not.
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:04 pm

cactus flower wrote:

Anyone who wants to deliver a serious critique has to be financially independent of Government imo.

I would have thought that goes without saying.
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:25 pm

johnfás wrote:
cactus flower wrote:

Anyone who wants to deliver a serious critique has to be financially independent of Government imo.

I would have thought that goes without saying.

The monitoring of things like equality and poverty is done by NGOs who are Government funded. Isn't that a contradiction in terms?
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:27 pm

That is my point, I am agreeing with you.

The Government would naturally have bodies which examine whether the State's laws are being complied with. That is of course what the Gardaí, the HSE and numerous other bodies do.

However, entirely objective organisations which seek to criticise the Government on its policies and its adherence to the law would always do well to be financially independent of Government. How they manage that is of course the dilemma.
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:34 pm

Very useful background information below - the EA were clearly putting up a big fight to preserve their autonomy against a government initiative aimed at merging several bodies - a measure which none of the bodies concerned though workable or wise.

http://eracampaign.org/weblog/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/position_paper-_era.pdf
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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:31 pm

Crowley's letter of resignation:

Quote :

"Ms. Angela Kerins

Chairperson
Equality Authority
2 Clonmel Street
Dublin 2

11th December 2008

Dear Angela

It is with deep regret that I am writing to tender my resignation as Chief Executive Officer of the Equality Authority. I have been forced into this action by the manner in which I believe the Equality Authority has been rendered unviable by the decision of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to cut its funding by 43% and to continue decentralisation of its staff. My position as Chief Executive Officer has become untenable as a result.

It has been a privilege to work for the past ten years in the Equality Authority. I have appreciated the opportunity to be part of an organisation that has been able to respond so effectively to a broad range of people who find their participation, progress and well being diminished by discrimination. It has been inspiring to play a role in an organisation that has been so committed to and expert in developing a support infrastructure for policy makers, employers and service providers to better promote equality, value diversity and combat discrimination.

The work of the Equality Authority has been fatally compromised by the strategy of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in the Government's budget. Staff turnover, due to continued decentralisation where the current Equality Authority staff are not in a position to move to Roscrea; staff reduction of the scale required to meet the reduced pay budget now being made available to the Equality Authority; and the limited financial resources to fund the developmental, legal and information work of the Equality Authority mean that the Equality Authority cannot operate to even a minimal level. The loss of staff expertise and skills consequent to the foregoing further undermines the ability of the Equality Authority to operate to necessary standards in carrying out its work.

The rationale given by Minister Dermot Ahern T.D. for the Department's strategy is simply not credible. It is not credible to explain the 43% cutback in funding for the Equality Authority on the basis that the Minister seeks to prioritise combating crime. The budget cutback of the Equality Authority stands in stark contrast to that of organisations such as the National Disability Authority (a 2% cutback), the Legal Aid Board (a 1% cutback), or the Data Protection Commissioner (a 9% cutback) none of which play a role in combating crime. It further strains credulity when the Minister suggests that this cutback can be offset by reduced rental costs for the Equality Authority - a possible €200,000 saving on rental does not resolve the cutback of nearly €2,500,000 being made to the overall funding of the Equality Authority.

The only credible explanation I can see for what has been done to the Equality Authority appears to be that the casework strategy implemented by it, particularly in relation to allegations of discrimination in the public sector, has been experienced as a threat by senior civil servants and/or Government. It would further appear that the independent voice of the Equality Authority has had to be silenced for becoming an awkward witness to the inequality and discrimination in our society. The Equality Authority is being victimised for doing well what it was established to do.

It is required under European Union Equal Treatment Directives that Member States establish a specialised equality body to provide independent assistance to victims of discrimination, to conduct independent surveys of discrimination, and to publish independent reports relating to discrimination. The Equality Authority has been acknowledged across the European Union as an exemplary model in this regard. Ireland is now in danger of moving from being a European leader in this area to being in breach of the Equal Treatment Directives for lack of a specialised equality body that is able to effectively and independently carry out these functions.

At yesterday's meeting the refusal by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to countenance the very limited proposals for viability put forward by the Board of the Equality Authority was most disappointing. The Equality Authority merely sought flexibility to delay the staff decentralisation now required and sought further funds of €700,000 which would have meant accepting a 32% cut in funding. This would have enabled the Equality Authority to operate at the most minimal level.

This response by the Minister was the final factor in reaching my decision. I cannot stand by and pretend that the Equality Authority is viable in these circumstances. I hope that my resignation might encourage a review of what is being done to the Equality Authority so that this important institution can be retained in a viable format and can continue to make an effective and independent contribution to a better and more equal Ireland.

Yours sincerely

_______________________

Niall Crowley
Chief Executive Officer
Equality Authority

cc. Dermot Ahern, T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. "__________________


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PostSubject: Re: The scuttling of the Equality Authority   Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:46 pm

That's a fair old swipe at the Minister.
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