Following a discussion and a resolution adopted by its members, the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland is calling on the Irish government to show its full and immediate support for the inclusion of socio-economic status as an additional ground for discrimination under current Irish equality legislation. This move would align Irish law with the majority of jurisdictions in the EU, ensuring Ireland remains at the forefront of protecting the rights of its citizens to freely access services and seek work, unburdened by discriminatory attitudes, behaviors, and prejudices.
An overview of equality legislation shows that legislation in 20 of the 35 European countries provide protection against discrimination on a ground related to socio-economic status. There is also a significant move in other European countries towards extending the mandate of equality bodies to cover socio-economic status grounds.
The recognition of the socio-economic ground ensures that those who have experienced discrimination and exclusion based on their housing status, address, income level, and family background, have necessary redress under equality legislation.
In Ireland, the Central Statistics Office revealed that 29.6% of those reporting discrimination have stated it was on grounds other that those covered in the current legislation, with strong indication that “other grounds” relate to income status and location or address. Unfortunately the extensive research being called for by the government in order to establish levels and locations of discrimination, as well as to further explore definitions, seems to ignore the experiences, evidence and learning already in place around equality legislation in Ireland and within other European
The current government concerns around the inclusion of socio- economic status on the basis of impact are unfounded. Socio-economic status will not present a burden greater than existing grounds already operating within current equality legislation. EAPN Ireland believes the move to include socio-economic status as grounds for discrimination would not bring Ireland beyond the point of necessity or create unintended consequences.