EQUALITY...Anyone who pushes for equality, or criticises the male Anglo-Saxon world, is declared "PC" and thereby discredited and silenced. McCarthyism to counteract imagined totalitarianism. Where have we seen that before?
Jasmin Alibhai-Brown — British writer and broadcaster. The Independent, 11 Aug. 1993

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
Martin Luther King

EQUALITY...is the thing. It is the only true and central premise from which constructive ideas can radiate freely and be operated without prejudice.
Mervyn Peake (1911-68) British novelist. Titus Groan, 'The Sun goes down'

PREJUDICE ...I too well know its truth, from experience, that whenever any poor Gipsies are encamped anywhere and crimes and robberies etc. occur, it is invariably laid to their account, which is shocking; and if they are always looked upon as vagabonds, how can they become good people?
Victoria (1819-1901) Queen of the United Kingdom. Journal, 29 Dec 1836

Entitlement to equality of opportunity for all is the foundation to any free society. In Ireland, the Equal Employment Act came into effect in 1998 and was followed by the Equal Status Act of 2000. During 2001, a total of 1,080 cases were dealt with - 405 by the EEA (105 brought forward from 2000) and 675 by the ESA (14 brought forward from 2000). [See official Government site]

Unfortunately this legislation seems deeply flawed in that it provides disproportionate provision for one section of the community—so called 'Travelers'—whilst affording no recourse against indiscriminate prejudicial treatment for the bulk of the population in general.

The legislation is, effectively, back to front in that it requires the aggrieved to prove discrimination on narrowly defined grounds whilst failing to enact in law adequate regulations to prevent such discrimination taking place to begin. As it stands, the legislation is a classic example of the victim’s assumed guilt until proven innocent.

Those with responsibility for enforcing the equality legislation are faced with a tough task. Inequality is widespread in Irish society and is propagated by those who have greater regard for their own idea of what is 'law' than for the statutory laws of the land. Respect for the individual cannot be successfully attained where respect for the law is absent. When it comes down to publicans, the publican to suit his or her own translation often twists the law.

Considering the proliferation of licensed establishments in the country, it is remarkable that the letter of the law has not been pursued with greater vigour. I have lost count of the number of times I have been incorrectly and glibly told by a publican that they do not have to provide any reason for refusal of service or entry. If a person entered a shop and was then refused service with no valid reason, the shopkeeper could expect to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Publicans seem to be enjoying exception. It should be worrying to consider that the financial might of any trade could in any way be responsible for the relaxation of legal requirements in the lawful operation of the business.

Some time ago a letter was sent informing the then chairman of the Irish Vintners Association of a number of premises that had displayed discriminate serving policies. The reply was an example of bigotry at its best. It is also a stark example of the reality faced by anyone introducing equality legislation.

Any refusal of service in a public environment without justifiably valid reason in law is ipso facto an affront to the dignity and rights of the person refused. It is also an indication that the law is being flouted and held in disregard either wilfully or through ignorance by those refusing such service. The danger here is that such behaviour borders on anarchy.

Discriminate treatment within society of any member is a form of repression and is a serious matter. Tackling discrimination must be an equally serious matter if similar discrimination is not to filter through into the actions of those very bodies charged with tackling discrimination.

The past century has seen many discourses on equality, with many quotations on the subject made in earnest at the time but which lack the rationale of clear perception. Such has been the continuance of the struggle to achieve the basic human right to dignity and equality.

Freedom — just another word for nothing left to lose...

As long as we remain caught up in the madness that drives modern society then we are part of that madness and not part of any solution. The Nazis used the term "work makes free" at the entrance to their more notorious concentration camps in a blatant Machiavellian display of Orwellian term twisting to suit a certain ideal. Much the same continues throughout society today. We are led to believe we must live a certain way, do certain things, conform to certain standards—the bulk of which are invalid in the wider principle and serve in reality to promulgate little more than the advantage of the few.

Too many young Irish males remain trapped in the unnecessary macho tough guy mental scenario, an attitude that greatly compounds the difficulty of progressive communication. Too many females remain confused about who they really are. Both scenarios are vastly compounded in complexity by the growing emergence of greater individual wealth in Ireland and the perceptible shift towards broader materialism.

The latter might at first seem divergent from the concept of equality. It is not. Equality is a concept without distinction. However, human society consists of layers of distinction and for any concept of equality to be attainable, those layers of distinction must first be acknowledged.

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by the age of eighteen, wrote Albert Einstein. In other words, it is the application of preconceived opinion. We speak often of the concept of love, yet in cold light that concept of love is itself often corrupt and is little more than an ideal manipulated to suit our own purposes, or prejudices.

Holding to an ideal of freedom means the renunciation of all that will corrupt that ideal. Moving towards a society free of discrimination and prejudice itself requires firm adherence to the values of freedom and not adherence to lip service. Rock on.

(See related story items)

Equal Status 2001 - a discriminate Act?   The Shortcomings of the Equal Status Act 2002

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