The Equality & Rights Alliance has long espoused the introduction of a socioeconomic status ground into Irish employment equality and equal status legislation. The introduction of such a ground is immediately suggested by the wide range of discrimination experienced on this socio-economic status ground. This experience covers, in particular, the key fields of employment, education, housing and accommodation, and health. This discrimination has deepened and been exacerbated by the economic and financial crisis and the deepening poverty that has been a result of how this crisis has been managed. Our equality legislation, with its nine different grounds of discrimination, has an admirable and important aspiration to be comprehensive in its coverage. This aspiration remains to be realised while the ground of socio-economic status is still not included.
The establishment of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is central to a new context that has been created for work on equality, non-discrimination, and human rights. It is at the heart of a new integrated approach to equality and human rights. This offers great potential, while it holds some threats. Integration must mean more than joined up silos if the potential is to be realised and any threats averted. The Equality & Rights Alliance has offered new thinking on how this integration could be realised in a range of publications. The ground of socio-economic status, if enshrined in equality legislation, offers a fulcrum around which a valuable and impactful integration could be built.
The Equality & Rights Alliance commissioned this publication as a means of stimulating debate on the introduction of a socio-economic status ground in equality legislation and of building momentum towards its introduction. The last time there was debate on this issue was as far back as 2004 when the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform commissioned research to assess the introduction of new grounds under equality legislation on foot of a position paper developed by the then Equality Authority. It is timely to update our knowledge and to re-engage the debate. This is an area where we have gradually fallen behind many other Member States in the EU. It would be timely to reassert a leadership we held for many years by introducing a new socioeconomic ground into the equality legislation.
Tamas Kadar is the author of this report. He has served us well with his thorough and expert analysis of the context now pertaining in relation to a socioeconomic status ground. He has succinctly drawn together a body of academic and practice learning to inform our debate and, adroitly gone further in teasing out this body of learning for its implications as to how best we might proceed in relation to a socio-economic status ground. We are grateful for this important contribution to the debate we must now have.