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20 February 2015
The Good Friday Agreement

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Equality and Rights
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
     
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Image of Joan Harbison, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission
Joan Harbison, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission
(1999-2005)

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is an independent body established under the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It became operational on 1 September 1999 when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr Mo Mowlam appointed a Chief Commissioner, Joan Harbison, a part-time Deputy Chief Commissioner, Bronagh Hinds and 18 part-time Commissioners. It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State to secure, as far as practicable, that the Commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland.

The new Commission replaced four separate bodies: the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Council. In its annual report to the Department of Economic Development, the Commission is required by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (the Act) to give details of how resources have been divided between the functions previously carried out by the four separate bodies. The Equality Commission's corporate plan indicates that it will consider and consult upon options in relations to consultative councils, specified in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act whose role will be to advise the Commission.. The Equality Commission maintains the powers of all the anti-discrimination legislation in the above areas.

The key duties of the Equality Commission include:

 -  Working towards the elimination of discrimination
 -  Promoting equality and affirmative action
 -  Promoting good relations between persons of different racial groups
 -  Overseeing the effectiveness of the statutory duty on public authorities
 -  Keeping under review the relevant legislation
 
Audio and Video
Links to audio and video selections can be found on the last page.
Key Academic Opinions
Prioritising the equality agenda
Key Newspaper Articles
Members of Equality Commission announced
     
Image of a lesbian line banner being carried in Belfast's Gay Pride Parade
Section 75 promotes equality of opportunity between persons of different sexual orientations

The Equality Commission fulfils part of the British government's pledge under the Good Friday Agreement to promote diversity, eliminate discrimination and achieve equality for all. Central to this remit is Section 75 of the Act that requires all public bodies to have "due regard to the need" to promote and sustain equality of opportunity.

Under Schedule 9 of the Act each public authority is required to submit an equality scheme to the Equality Commission outlining how it proposes to fulfil the duties imposed by section 75 and specify a timetable for implementing the proposed equality measures. The guidelines for the New Statutory Duty were launched at the Waterfront Hall on 31 March 2000. Once the Commission has approved the scheme the public authority is legally obliged to implement it.
 
Key Academic Opinions
Section 75 explained
Key Newspaper Articles
Equality guides 'a voice for all'
Bodies sign up for equality
Beginning of participatory democracy
     

The Act establishes nine categories between which equality of opportunity is to be promoted. These are:

 -  persons of different religious beliefs,
 -  persons of different political opinions,
 -  persons of different racial groups,
 -  persons of different racial groups,
 -  persons of different marital status,
 -  persons of different sexual orientations,
 -  men and women generally,
 -  persons with a disability and persons without,
 -  persons with dependants and persons without.
 
Key Newspaper Articles
Jobs inequality shock
Press is unfair to travellers says UU
Cracking the glass ceiling
Victory for victim in 'gender bias' case
Disability in the workplace deserves equality
   
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