NORTHERN IRELAND Humanists has urged the Executive Office (TEO) to make sure its equality work means equality for everyone in Northern Ireland, including the non-religious, religious minorities, and LGBT people.

In response to a consultation on its draft Equality Scheme, Northern Ireland Humanists highlighted that the draft scheme does not adequately address equality and good relations between all of Northern Ireland’s communities.

Northern Ireland Humanists highlighted that the exclusive wording throughout TEO’s draft equality scheme risked excluding the non-religious by referring to equality and good relations between people of ‘different religious beliefs’. This excludes the non-religious. Northern Ireland Humanists recommended TEO adopt the more inclusive phrase ‘religion or belief’. This is particularly important in light of Northern Ireland’s growing non-religious population.

Northern Ireland Humanists also raised the persistent use of the category ‘other’ to describe anyone who stands outside of the dominant Catholic and Protestant community groupings. Such broad labelling fails to acknowledge the existence of, much less address the interaction between, the diverse and varied communities. It highlighted that equality can only be measured if meaningful data is collected, and recommended a broader approach is necessary to effectively monitor equality.

Northern Ireland Humanists welcomed TEO’s commitment to staff training and awareness-raising in order to effectively implement its duties under equality law. However, it highlighted that such training also needs to raise the importance of diversity and inclusion in decision-making processes, with particular emphasis on specific minority groups, including humanist and LGBT perspectives.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: “For a truly equal and inclusive society, we have to address diversity in all its forms. It isn’t possible to create a truly cohesive society while anyone who doesn’t consider themselves Protestant or Catholic is automatically ‘othered’. Our demographic is changing. There is a growing non-religious population here and we cannot be ignored any longer. We stand ready to work with the Northern Ireland Government on realising a more inclusive approach.”

* Source: Northern Ireland Humanists