Since I've been in London covering the talks at the Treasury, I haven't been across the detail of today's Assembly motion on equality and good relations. But I've seen some of the speeches e-mailed out by the parties, and they reveal the philosophical distinctions which the politicians make around these topics, some of which can be frankly a bit baffling to the layman.
You can't have a chicken without an egg, but can you have equality without good relations? In her contribution Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson makes no bones about regarding equality as pre-eminent. She says "good relations can only be built on Equality. Equality cannot and should not be built on good relations". She goes on "If equality and good relations have equal status - as stated in the SDLP motion - is the SDLP saying that even though objective needs dictates that Catholics meet all the criteria that housing for Catholics should be blocked. This is the case in certain areas of the North." And concludes "equality is necessary, good relations are desirable. Equality is the primary duty and I find it disappointing - but not surprising - that the SDLP don't seem to recognise that."
The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie seemed less philosophical in her arguments. She bluntly stated that the recent draft Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy read "like a text produced by robots, devoid of empathy or intuition." Her reasoning was that neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein really cared about good relations, their strategy "envisions a future where we still have two separate communities. The height of its ambition is to have two communities still separate, still unreconciled, but generally at peace. Not attacking or abusing each other." She argued that the parties should aim higher, but "the DUP and Sinn Fein - do not actually believe in Sharing. Honestly, they don't actually want a shared Future. They prefer the traditional division which affords them power in their own single identity communities. Power and control before all else. Carve-up before sharing."
In his maiden speech, the Alliance's Chris Lyttle was more enthusiastic about the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy as a step in the right direction. But he too expressed concern about the "danger of a 'shared out future' rather than the 'shared future' this region needs and deserves."
And on the chicken/egg, equality/good relations conundrum, he continued that "Alliance is also wary of a hierarchy between equality and good relations. This document must recognise that there can be no sustainable equality in this region without a sense of solidarity, interdependence and sharing. Equality arguments should not be used to undermine good relations and vice versa."
At the time of writing I haven't seen any of the unionist contributions to the debate in my in box. My Spam Filter has obviously not been equality proofed in line with Section 75 of the 1998 Northern Ireland Act.