Monday, 19 May 2014

Are UKIP Northern Ireland confused on social equality?

Yeah I have actually opened and read UKIP Northern Ireland's local government manifesto (even though my DEA does not have a UKIP candidate).

What most interested me was their section on social equality (page 8). It starts with a bold statement that most right minded people would not argue with:

As a party, which draws support from all ethnicities and from people of all faiths and none, we believe everyone is born equal. We oppose discrimination upon the basis of disability, race, denomination and sexual orientation.

Their second point emphasises this point saying that UKIP oppose any special treatment of any group upon the basis of etnicity, denomination or sexual orientation.

I have to admit such a sweeping general statement got my attention, but as with such things the devil is in the detail. But I wanted to test the rest of their statements against these high standards.

a) UKIP will end monitoring activities within councils, which institutionalise sectarianism.
Now the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) has this to say about monitoring:

Clause 74: Monitoring
This clause requires a council, and its community planning partners, to make arrangements for monitoring progress made on meeting the community planning objectives and the associated actions.  It also places a duty on a council to publish a statement at least every two years on the progress which has been made towards meeting the community planning objectives and undertaking the actions attributed to the various community planning bodies.

These council led planning objectives are part of the new powers to the super councils from the same act it says:

The reform programme will also see the introduction of a new ethical standards regime, and council-led community planning which will enable councils to act as the focal point for improving outcomes for people.  Overall, the aim is to establish a strong, dynamic local government that creates vibrant, healthy, prosperous, safe and sustainable communities that have the needs of all people at their core.

Now under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act we have a definition of just what those communities are:

Section 75 and Schedule 9 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 came into force on the 01 January 2000 and placed a statutory obligation on public authorities in carrying out their various functions relating to Northern Ireland, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity –
  • between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;
  • between men and women generally;
  • between persons with a disability and persons without; and
  • between persons with dependants and persons without.
In addition, without prejudice to this obligation, Public Authorities are also required to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, and racial group.

So those monitoring activities from Northern Ireland councils have actions that affect more than just sectarian politics. It affects all minorities and ensures that they are not impacted negatively by plans.

Therefore UKIP fail on this one falling in a two dimensional green or orange shade of Northern Irish politics.
c) UKIP will work to terminated preferential funding arrangements for minority ethnic groups
d) UKIP support the withdrawal of financial  support for languages other than English

In the light of Northern Ireland politics this may have certain overtones. Does this return to the 1960s pre-Civil Rights movement basis of Unionist/British supremecy? Yesterday the party's European Candidate posted on his Facebook page a picture of Enoch Powell and how he admired Mr Powell's sense of nationhood.

There is also of course the effect this will have on the Irish language classes which occur in both loyalist and nationalist areas. It was a language which Protestants helped to keep alive as Ian Malcolm's excellent book (pictured right) points out. There are many protestants, myself included, who have taken to studying the language that many of our forefathers spoke.

However, as well as the usual Northern Ireland context imagine you have conversational French, Spanish or German and face arrest in one of those nations. Like here the language of courts is above the standard of most conversational speakers. I learnt some business Spanish as part of my learning at University when it was geared to our requirements, as those are words that you don't pick up in conversational classes normally. So does this mean that providing support for people for whom English is a second or third language is to be withdrawn? What about the support provided for people accessing services that is translated to ease their access?

UKIP will not discriminate against you based on ethnicity providing you speak official and legal level English.

 (e) UKIP will continue to oppose homosexual and lesbian marriage, upon the basis it unacceptably compromises personal freedoms and represents unacceptable intrusion by the state in matters of personal conscience.

I think I need this translated into a language that I understand, and I have grade B English Language O'Level. For a start opposing something compromises the personal freedoms of those who want the thing that you oppose, surely? So clearly your personal freedoms don't count if you are LGBT, that is clearly the argument here.

Also surely lifting the state's ban on marriages between people of the same sex does away with state intrusion in that area? As it stands by the end of this year, the state will have stopped intruding into who can form a couple through marriage in every part of the UK except Northern Ireland, where state intrusion will still prevail. Also except for the Church of England and Church in Wales who will need secondary legislation denominations or faith groups can come to their own autonomous decisions on this matter, again but not in the Northern Ireland.

Therefore I have to ask is the use of "personal conscience" actually a cover for "perceived group religious conscience" not personal at all, not showing no discrimination based on denomination, as even here in Northern Ireland there are some churches that want to be allowed the option to marry same-sex couples.

Does not descriminate on the basis of sexual orientation as long as your are straight, or bisexual seeking to marry an opposite sex partner, or on basis of denomination as long as you agree with the Evangelical Alliance and Catholic Church and not prepared to enter a conversation like Steve Chalke wants.

(f) UKIP will ensure public sector appointments are made solely on the basis of merit

Now this may relate to the 50/50 recruitment policy in the PSNI which actually ended in 2011. But from last years application figures the number of Catholics and indeed women at only a third of all recruits in each measure is below the level that would have a force that reflects society as a whole.

Indeed UKIP in Northern Ireland with only 2 women out of their 20 council candidates are clearly selecting candidates on merit as long as they are male.

That being said I cannot argue with this point, although you do wonder what is behind it.

(g) UKIP will restrict state interference in our everyday lives and in matters of conscience

Now I can sense another dichotomy here. Which is borne out by the last of their common sense policies for local government page 4 which is "The Judeo Christian values which have served our country well for centuries". It does make you wonder how they are going to represent those of all faith and (more interestingly) none, also are group Judeo Christian matters of conscience going to interfere in matters over which state and local councils have control.

In mind with their common sense principle of tackling political correctness head on (again I refer you to Section 75) there are sections of Northern Ireland society that have not been properly recognised or dealt with until devolution and even then there is some way to go to get full equality for many of these groups. In the Northern Irish narritive this correcting political wrongs from our two dimensional past far more than mere political correctness.

Appears to discriminate on the basis that only Judeo Christian principles need apply forgetting civic duty to those of all faiths and none.

(h) Support and exclusively scientific approach to the issue of blood donations from high-risk groups, recognising patient safety must never be compromised.

This is worded carefully to avoid referring directly to MSM (men who've had sex with other men) blood donations. It also refers to high-risk groups, but latest scientific evidence accepted in England, Scotland and Wales in that men who have not had sex with another man in the last 12 months are not a high risk group.

I have searched for and found nothing else from UKIP NI on this matter. Indeed on the only occasion that this subject was debated in the Assembly their MLA David McNarry didn't contribute and it went to an oral vote only.

But the strong wording of patient safety must never be compromised makes you wonder if that means that the one extra case of at risk blood getting through the system by 3215 be too much of a risk for UKIP to lift it?

Unclear, the second part is the language of the DUP health minister while the first part is correct approach.

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