Fair employment laws 'a success'

09-11-2004

Fair Employment legislation has been a success in Northern Ireland, according to the Equality Commission.

A wide range of delegates are examining 30 years of the laws at a conference in Belfast on Tuesday.

The Equality Commission said it was also an opportunity to debate issues for the future.

Delegates include policy-makers, politicians, employers, trade unionists and community activists.

Chief Commissioner Joan Harbison said they would be discussing "matters that are often vigorously contested".

"The fair employment legislation was designed to tackle religious and political discrimination in the workplace," she said.

"It was unique and challenging in its time, and indeed still presents us with challenges.

"Part of our task today is to look back at its development, its impact, and the lessons learnt from it.

"But we are also looking forward - at how we can build on the successes and learn from the lessons of the past."

'Ever-changing context'

The chief commissioner said the book recently launched by the Commission - Fair employment in Northern Ireland: a generation on - provided clear evidence the legislation had worked.

"It is a story of a good public policy, well applied", she said.

"We in the Equality Commission will listen with interest to the views coming through today's debates.

"We want the conference to help all those concerned - including the commission, government, politicians and the social partners - take this important work forward in an ever-changing context."

Conference speakers include Bob Osborne from the University of Ulster, Ian Shuttleworth of Queen's University and Shamit Saggar of Sussex University - former senior advisor to the Cabinet Office.

A panel of local politicians are also debating future policy agendas.

The panel comprises of Gregory Campbell of the DUP, Sean Farren of the SDLP, David Ford of Alliance, Mitchell McLaughlin of Sinn Fein and Dermot Nesbitt of the Ulster Unionist Party.

This discussion is being chaired by BBC Northern Ireland presenter Noel Thompson.

BBC News

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