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Welcome to the official website for the Equality Coalition. We are a broad civil society alliance of more than 100 NGOs and trade unions dedicated to promoting equality and compliance with Section 75 within Northern Ireland.

Read more about our work in the About Us section.



LATEST FROM THE EQUALITY COALITION

Anti-poverty council motion
Published February 2024

The Equality Coalition and the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN) are urging local councils to pass a motion calling for an Anti-Poverty Strategy based on objective need to be urgently enacted by the NI Assembly. All 11 councils will be contacted directly and encouraged to endorse the motion, which can be read in full here.


‘Scandalous and Vexatious’: Defamation law for activists and campaigners
10.30am to 12.30pm, Thurs 29 Feb 2024, UNISON or online

Organised by the Equality Coalition and The PILS Project, this seminar will provide human rights and equality activists with an introduction to defamation law and process in Northern Ireland. At the end of the two-hour session, you will have a better understanding of how to identify defamation, how to avoid it in your campaigning, and how to react if you find yourself threatened with a claim. Speakers include barrister Peter Girvan and solicitor Olivia O’Kane, as well as Malachi O’Doherty, who will give a first-hand account of being sued for defamation – and winning! Register here.


Progressing an anti-poverty strategy for Northern Ireland – Seminar report
Published 29 January 2024

On 28 June 2023, the Equality Coalition, Barnardo’s NI, and the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN) held a joint seminar calling for the development of an anti-poverty strategy to be a day one priority for the next NI Executive. ‘Progressing an anti-poverty strategy for Northern Ireland’ took place at Stormont and was sponsored  by MLAs from five political parties. Northern Ireland has been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy for almost twenty years following a commitment arising from the 2006 St Andrews Agreement legislation.

During the seminar, expert speakers examined what progress has been made to date in developing the strategy, while also considering what needs to be included within the strategy to make it as effective as possible. A comprehensive report from the seminar has now been compiled and can be downloaded here.


‘Constitutional Conversations’ Seminars
Autumn 2023

The Equality Coalition held two hybrid seminars with the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) in autumn 2023 to explore important questions about the constitutional future of Northern Ireland with a range of expert speakers. Recordings from the two sessions are available to watch online:

Could rights based safeguards make Stormont functional? (30 October 2023)

How could minority and women’s rights be protected in a United Ireland? (17 November 2023)

The seminars were supported LSE Gender, Justice and Security Hub.


Progressing an anti-poverty strategy for Northern Ireland – Briefing note
Published June 2023

The Equality Coalition, Barnardo’s NI, and the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network (NIAPN) have produced a joint briefing note calling for the development of an anti-poverty strategy to be a day one priority for the next NI Executive. The three organisations launched the briefing at a seminar held in Stormont on Wednesday 28 June 2023. Northern Ireland has already been waiting for an anti-poverty strategy for almost twenty years.


The ‘chill factor’: A roundtable discussion on the intimidation of civil society in NI
29 March 2023, UNISON, Belfast

In March 2023, the Equality Coalition held a roundtable discussion with our members on the ‘chill factor’ still experienced by activists and academics in Northern Ireland, 25 years after the signing of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. The event was conducted under the Chatham House Rule to ensure everyone could speak openly. Following the session, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) – which co-convenes the Coalition with UNISON – produced a special edition of its newsletter, Just News, to further stimulate discussions on this important issue. 


ELDH report from NI factfinding mission
Published March 2023

An international delegation of lawyers, coordinated by the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH), visited Northern Ireland between 28 September 2022 and 4 October 2022 to talk to civil society groups – including the Equality Coalition -about their concerns regarding the state of the peace process and human rights in NI. The trip took place ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (on 10 April 2023). The group has now published their final report, which concludes that there have been multiple breaches of human rights and international law by the UK government in Northern Ireland. Download the report here.


Policy Asks 2022
Launched January 2022

The Equality Coalition has developed a series of ‘Policy Asks’ for Northern Ireland, which have a particular emphasis on rights and equality. These ‘asks’ are based on a recent mapping exercise examining the status of rights-based commitments from the agreements of the NI peace process.


Submission in relation to the ECNI draft legal assistance policy
Published September 2021

The Equality Coalition for NI (ECNI) recently consulted on their new (draft) Policy for the Provision of Legal Advice and Assistance. In response, we produced a submission suggesting a number of changes to the draft document. Our recommendations focus primarily on encouraging ECNI to use their enforcement powers strategically and proactively going forwards.


Generic submission to draft equality schemes out for consultation in 2021
Published August 2021

Since the advent of Section 75, the Equality Coalition has engaged extensively with public authorities in relation to their equality schemes. In 2016, when a number of reorganised public authorities were consulting on their schemes, we drafted a generic submission to provide advice to them on best practice. This submission has now been updated for 2021 as a number of public bodies are once again working on updating their schemes.


Equality Coalition statement on the pandemic recovery
Published July 2021

We have issued a joint statement urging decision makers to address inequality as part of the pandemic recovery after the deaths of at least 2,981 people from Covid-19 in NI. This statement follows on from our previous one on the pandemic, issued in April 2020. Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Section 75 groups such as older people; persons with disabilities and those who are clinically vulnerable; women; black and minority ethnic people; and those with dependents. The members of the Equality Coalition are calling for action to urgently address inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19. Austerity must not become part of NI’s pandemic recovery.


Equality Coalition statement in response to the reappointment of the FM/dFM
Published June 2021

Following the reappointment of the First Minister and deputy First Minister on 17 June 2021, we have realised a statement urging the UK government and Stormont administration to implement the outstanding rights-based commitments arising from the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement and other components of the peace process.  Some of these commitments remain unimplemented more than two decades after they were first promised.


Briefing summarising the Expert Advisory Panel reports on the social inclusion strategies
Published May 2021

In March 2021, the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey published the reports of four Expert Advisory Panels to help inform the development of the new social inclusion strategies for Northern Ireland. We have drafted a short briefing paper summarising each of the four reports and their key recommendations.


Covid Conversations – Human Rights in a Pandemic
Published April 2021

In 2020, the Equality Coalition teamed up with the Transitional Justice Institute and Human Rights Consortium to organise webinars examining human rights issues brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic. Originally intended as a limited series, the webinars continued for far longer than we originally expected (much like the pandemic itself).  Events were held regularly from summer 2020 to spring 2021.

They covered a diverse range of topics, including childcare, domestic abuse, digital poverty, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and access to justice during the pandemic. The webinars have now been made available online for watching at any time via YouTube.


Submission on Programme for Government outcomes and draft budget
Published February 2021

We have finalised our submission on the Programme for Government (PfG) outcomes and draft budget (including departmental screenings/EQIAs). Given their interlinking nature, this submission responds to a number of different, concurrent consultations at once. Our submission examines the rights and equality implications of current plans, including whether the Section 75 statutory equality duty has been applied adequately throughout the budgetary process. We include recommendations for each department in the NI Executive, as well as the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), drawing attention to outstanding issues that still need to be addressed.


Stormont’s vetoes in the context of a pandemic – An Equality Coalition briefing note
Published November 2020

In 2019, our Manifesto for a Rights Based Return to Power Sharing called for a new agreement to remove those political vetoes within the NI Executive that are not based on (and have conflicted with) equality and rights duties, and as such contributed to the destabilisation and collapse of the NI Executive in 2017. The issue returned to prominence in November 2020 with the DUP twice using the ‘St Andrews Veto’ to block the extension of public health measures proposed by the Health Minister to contain the pandemic, which were supported by all other parties. In response, the Equality Coalition has produced a briefing note setting out the human rights implications of the veto being used in this way.


Written Evidence to the NI Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on the Bill of Rights from the Equality Coalition Co-Conveners
Published October 2020

A Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was first promised in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but progress towards its development has repeatedly stalled. The establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bill of Rights at Stormont represents a fresh attempt to move things forward. On 22 October 2020, the Co-Conveners of the Equality Coalition (CAJ and UNISON) gave a briefing to the Ad Hoc Committee in support of the Bill of Rights. You can download the written evidence we provided to Committee members here. Minutes from the session are also available online.


Equality Proofing the Return to School – Briefing Paper 
Published September 2020 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had far reaching impacts on all aspects of NI society, not least education, with most pupils being withdrawn from school for five months due to the strict lockdown period and the subsequent summer break. As staff and students begin the new school term, we must ensure that their return to school is carried out in a way that is safe for everyone, with all decisions subjected to appropriate Section 75 assessment processes to ensure they promote equality of opportunity. 

The Equality Coalition’s Education Sub-Group has put together a briefing paper to highlight to decision makers how to ‘equality proof’ the return to school. Download it here


Joint statement on Covid-19
Published April 2020

The 90 members of the Equality Coalition have published a joint statement calling for political action to prevent the Covid-19 crisis from worsening inequalities in Northern Ireland. The statement urges the Northern Ireland Executive and all public authorities to fully discharge their Section 75 obligations to ensure policies developed in response to the pandemic actively promote equality of opportunity and don’t exacerbate inequalities.

Read the press statement here.


Sectarianism: The Key Facts
Published February 2020

Commissioned by the Equality Coalition, independent researcher Dr Robbie McVeigh has authored a piece of research on contemporary sectarianism in Northern Ireland. Across 50 pages, Sectarianism: The Key Facts looks at ‘institutional sectarianism’ in NI – especially where there is evidence of sectarianism in decision-making.

The full report can be downloaded via this link.

 


Defining Public Duties to Tackle Incitement to Hatred whilst Respecting Freedom of Expression: Reviewing the Legal & Policy Framework – Conference Report
Published October 2019

A one-day conference was held on 13 October 2017 to explore, from a human rights perspective, when public authorities can or must act against speech and cultural expression in order to protect the rights of others. The event was organised by the Equality Coalition, with support from the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. It was comprised of presentations, panel discussions and a series of afternoon workshops, all exploring different themes related to the legal framework (both local and international) on countering incitement to hatred.

From the proceedings of this conference, a comprehensive 90 page report has been published. Download it here.


Post-Brexit Citizenship Status: Divided by the Rules? – Conference Report
Published June 2019

In March 2019, the Equality Coalition, in partnership with BrexitLawNI, held a major conference on ‘Post-Brexit Citizenship Status: Divided by the Rules?’ in the Moot Court Room at Queen’s University Belfast. Featuring expert practitioner and political panels, the conference explored how Brexit will transform the citizenship landscape in Northern Ireland and could lead to hardened entitlement boundaries between different groups of citizens here.

A 60 page report has been produced from the proceedings of the conference. You can download a digital version of the report here. Hard copies are available upon request by emailing equalitycoalition@caj.org.uk or calling 028 9031 6000.


Response to consultation on ECNI’s complaints and investigation procedures
Published May 2019

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) has been reviewing and revising the procedures related to its enforcement (investigation) powers. These powers enable ECNI to investigate public bodies that fail to comply with their Section 75 duties. In March 2019, ECNI launched a public consultation on its (draft) ‘Revised Policy and Procedures for Complaints and Investigations’. The Equality Coalition responded to this consultation with a detailed written submission, which raises several issues that we strongly urge ECNI to rectify.

Submission available for download here.


Manifesto for a Rights Based Return to Power Sharing
Published April 2019

More than two years have elapsed since the devolved power sharing institutions provided for under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) collapsed in Northern Ireland. Additionally, many of the rights based commitments of the peace settlement, including those originally designed as to act as safeguards on the NI Executive and Assembly, remain unimplemented or have been misimplemented. Fresh cross-party talks to restore power sharing have been announced for May 2019. However, there is little point in restoring the institutions only for them to fail to deliver and collapse again for the same reasons. Conscious of this, the Equality Coalition has developed a ‘Manifesto for a Rights Based Return to Power Sharing’.

Follow this link to download the manifesto. An Irish language version has also been published, with help from Conradh na Gaeilge. A larger font version in either language is available upon request – email equalitycoalition@caj.org.uk or call 028 9031 6000.


Incitement to Hatred in Northern Ireland – Research Report by Dr Robbie McVeigh for the Equality Coalition
Published April 2018

Independent researcher Dr Robbie McVeigh was commissioned by the Equality Coalition to explore incitement to hatred in the Northern Ireland context. There is copious evidence of hatred in NI – particularly racism, sectarianism and homophobia – which sometimes manifests itself in instances of ‘hate crime’. Moreover, there is ample evidence of incitement to hatred as it is characterised in international human rights standards. Dr McVeigh’s report examines the scale of the current problem, as well as how effectively it is being dealt with by public authorities and the justice system.

Download the report here.