On July 12th 2023, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth published a summary of the submissions received in response to the public consultation he called in June 2021 on the review of Ireland’s equality legislation. A summary of the INOU’s submission is available in Issue 49 of our e-bulletin linked here.
On page 4 of the summary document it notes that “569 submissions were received with many submissions referring to multiple grounds”. Of this number of submissions: 84% dealt with the ground of gender; 15% dealt with the ground of socio-economic status; and a similar percentage covered the disability ground.
At present socio-economic status is not one of the equality grounds in Ireland’s legislation and is covered in section 10 of this report, which is titled: Proposals for Additional Protections under the Equality Acts. On page 37 it notes that “The submissions recognised that access barriers to full and equal participation in economic and social life stem from socio-economic disadvantage and result in discrimination as well as poor treatment and conditions. Disproportionate representation in Irish prisons and the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage were noted in the submissions as effects of socio-economic discrimination.”
The report goes on to state that “Most of the submissions concerned with the proposed socio-economic ground argued that the Equality Acts should be amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disadvantaged socio-economic status and noted this would align Ireland with the majority of European countries and a recommendation from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UNCESCR).” Article 2.2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights declares that “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Further on in the summary document it notes that “The introduction of disadvantaged socio-economic status as a new ground for discrimination was considered by respondents as a logical and beneficial step in constructing a comprehensive and effective legal basis for the protection of people who are excluded and marginalised and for ensuring equality of access to redress. Many submissions felt that the existing discrimination grounds intersected with socio-economic status to exacerbate the experiences of exclusion and discrimination. Therefore, these submissions recommended that intersectionality needs to be provided for in the legislation.”
Section 16 deals with Intersectionality and on page 65 the report notes that “Many submissions had comments on the topic of introducing intersectionality into the Equality Acts and noted the exacerbating effects of intersectional discrimination.” And further on states that “Submissions also highlighted the importance of broadening the grounds in the Equality Acts, to include gender identity and disadvantaged socio-economic status, in order to more fully capture the range of intersecting discriminatory experiences that people may be subject to.”
In a quote from a submission from an individual the summary documents notes that “the grounds covered in the current Irish framework need to be expanded to include socioeconomic status as a standalone ground that often intersects with other grounds to magnify discrimination and propagate inequality. While this ground will provide protections for the first time for people that live in local authority flat complexes in the Inner City and other areas of disadvantage, it also will strengthen the rights of those already protected. For example Travellers are often discriminated against due to their ethnicity but also at times due to their social and economic situation and background, therefore should this situation arise in the future they would be afforded the right to include this aspect of discrimination in a complaint form to the Workplace Relations Commission”.
The full report is available linked here.