Sunday, 7 December 2014

When is an answer not an answer? #SexualOrientationStrategy

Earlier this year we finally had a consultation of Northern Ireland's sexual orientation strategy (SOS) but seem to have heard nothing since.

So I decided to see when was the first question to OFMDFM about it delivery. I think I have found it here on the 8 October 2007

Sexual Orientation Strategy  and Action Plan5. Dr Farry asked the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to detail what progress has been made towards presenting and launching the sexual orientation strategy and action plan.    (AQO 380/08)The First Minister: A consultation on the draft sexual orientation strategy and action plan was carried out during direct rule under the former Secretary of State Peter Hain. The draft strategy has yet to be considered by Ministers and the Executive.Dr Farry: I thank the First Minister for that answer, even though it was rather brief. Can he assure me that all Ministers are working in harmony on sexual orientation issues and that this draft strategy will be brought forward as soon as possible? Does he agree that sexual orientation issues need to be seen through the prism of good relations? Will consideration be given to placing sexual orientation issues within the wider remit of the shared future strategy and, in particular, the second triennial action plan?The First Minister: The First Minister and deputy First Minister have made it clear that the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is totally committed to promoting equality and human rights and is completely opposed to any form of discrimination or harassment against any citizen.Mr Storey: Will the First Minister inform the House who approved the current funding package, and has any further funding been agreed?The First Minister: Mr Peter Hain approved the package; neither I nor my colleague across the way has since approved any funding.Mr McCartney: Does the First Minister agree that, in order to be effective, the draft sexual orientation strategy needs the full and total support of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister?The First Minister: That is a matter for negotiation. I can say only that we have to face the facts that are before us, and the facts are that the money that is now being provided is based on the undertaking made by the then Secretary of State Peter Hain and that the draft strategy has yet to be considered by Ministers or the Executive.
Yet tomorrow one of the First Minister's party colleagues intends to lodge a Private Members Bill for consultation on introducing a conscience clause into equality legislation. When you bear in mind that Peter Hain left the Northern Ireland department on 27 June 2007 and it was he who started the talk of a sexual orientation strategy this shows the level of procrastination that the DUP have on dealing with sexual orientation.

Of course we are still in talks about the past, parades and symbols at the moment which is another procrastination from the time that powers were first devolved. Therefore the speed with which the DUP can dismantle something considering the length of time they fail to come to an agreement on building things for a truly shared future.

Later questions on this issue:

  • In June 2008 determined that the draft would be presented to ministers that Autumn
  • In February 2009 that a refreshed SOS would be presented to Ministers for consideration by early summer 2009
  • In May 2010 the needs analysis had yet to be carried out before presentation to OFMDFM
  • In September 2010 we were told that the recent Cohesion, Sharing and Integration indicated that ministers were committed to publishing the SOS 
  • In a verbal question that month we told it would not be published sooner than 2012
  • On 21 February 2011 the minister opened that he "was not aware of any significant delay in publication" despite most of the times scales above being missed
  • In October 2011 draft proposals were about to be made available to the OFMDFM committee for publication and public consultation in early 2012
  • In February 2012 it was confirmed that is would be published during that year
  • In June 2012 we were told that the draft SOS would be published in December 2012
  • In October 2012 December was replaces with the more vague "near future"
  • In January 2013 with no publication we were told they remained committed to publication (again)
  • In July 2013 when asked why it had failed to be published and when to expect it deadlines were not in the answer
  • In October 2013 a consultation document was under consideration at the departmenr
  • In January 2014 there was mention of a draft consultation document being prepared for public consultation
  • In February 2014 when asked about publication of SOS the Minister said he had asked officials to launch a public consultation on which to base the SOS
The development consultation document was finally published in March 2014, we are once again approaching the end of another year waiting the results of that consultation to form the basis of the draft Sexual Orientation Strategy and Action Plan.

On the 13 November Stewart Dickson tabled the seemingly annual question since 2007 "To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister when the Sexual Orientation Strategy will be published." because we are still waiting for the actual strategy and action plan eight years on.

Paul Givan is going to put his Conscience Clause out to consultation after he lodges it tomorrow. Can you think he's be happy waiting over 8 years for something to come out of that initial consultation? Yet this is why the people he thinks people of faith need protecting from are still waiting to have their concerns properly addressed. 

It is time for the DUP to actually sort things out. Provide the Sexual Orientation Strategy. And the Race Strategy and Gender Strategy and all the things that link into Equality that they have been constantly procrastinating about since they took over the role of First Minister following the St Andrews Agreement. They need to do more than draw their salary they need to do things and not let things constantly get to a crisis point before they consider action and that often the wrong actions.

We need politicians who are not suffering from myopia but are far sighted enough to make plans and strategies for the future. When I word in DETI there was an Economic Strategy for the forthcoming 10 years called Strategy 2010. A subsequent strategy is now in place, but if DETI had taken 8 years to come up with a 10 year strategy there would be major questions asked.

So I'm asking one today. How come all the equality strategies have not being actioned expeditiously? 

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