Equality and good relations are central to ensuring a prosperous and thriving Northern Ireland. Equality of opportunity was a core issue in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and a focus of key outcomes of the draft Programme for Government 2016-2021. Government should maintain a focus on these and on the values of respect for equality and human rights and on the fundamental principles of non-discrimination and equality, key principles of EU law, in the exit negotiations and final agreement.
EU law has resulted in changes that have strengthened equality legislation in Northern Ireland across a number of equality grounds. It is essential that government ensures there is no erosion of these and other equality rights and protections in Northern Ireland after the UK leaves the EU and that mechanisms to ensure effective application of equality laws are supported.
Government should commit to implement future equality enhancing protections and best practice coming from the EU and elsewhere, and to addressing the significant gaps in equality protection between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. It should seek to be a model of international best practice in standards of equality protections.
Government should ensure that the UK’s exit from the EU does not negatively impact on race relations, that prejudicial attitudes and hate crime in NI are tackled effectively. It should also maintain policy initiatives and funding to support equality, good relations and the peace process, including through the work of the voluntary/community sector.
There should be effective engagement with key stakeholders, including Section 75 groups, on any EU exit proposals that have implications for equality and good relations in Northern Ireland.