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The Equality Agenda


Village champions equality: equality of outcome It was pleased to see gay people advance one step towards a particular equality with straight people, obtaining  the equal right to marriage.

Ideally Village would take that equality further and extend it not just to the family based on marriage, gay or straignt, but to all families. That seems fundamental.

Indeed, though people must make whatever private domestic arrangements best suit their circumstances, Village does not favour special state support for married people (as opposed to for children). There is no reason to favour families by taxation for example, especially if all they represent is a union based on love, as opposed to a commitment to open  a baby-making factory.

The real issues that needed addressing  are the stresses that are placed on young  people between the  ages of 12, when, on average, gay people realise they are gay, and 21 when, on average, they ‘come out’. Anti-bullying campaigns and civic education are a crucial part of this. Certainly the juggernaut that  drove the Yes campaign will have helped generate discussions and an aura around homosexuality that can  only help to undermine such stresses. Important too  is  to inculcate in parents the importance of making it clear to their children, as a component of the love all parents feel for them, that they are as worthy and as loved whether  they are gay or straight. Particular efforts should also be put into campaigns to eliminate prejudice against lesbians and trans people.

For Village the campaign often seemed intolerant. Of course it is good to be intolerant of intolerance. But it is a respectable, if – for this magazine – unattractive component of  many religions, including Catholicism, to elevate the roles of the family, of children and of procreation and to denigrate sex without marriage.  Nevertheless, civilisation does not require that Catholicism immediately surrender the integral edifice of Thomistic thinking that underpins it and move on an onward journey via tolerant Anglicanism to an admirable liberalism and onward to equality (of outcome, mind).

No. Religion may be wrong-headed but democracy requires it be  tolerated. It was wrong for many liberals to impute homophobia as the driving motivation of the likes of the Iona Institute. Indeed it was suffocating to see that the Catholic Church seemed so fearful of defending its traditional Aristotelian, teleological view of Nature.

In many ways indeed it seems the old societal certainties of Catholicism have been replaced with more practical though none the more compassionate certainties of Anti-Catholicism.

The most important egalitarian imperative is to ensure that every child at two years of age has the prospect of being anything he or she wants to be. It is important that excellent education is available for all to compensate for, and help eliminate, the unfairnesses of background. Childhood deprivation and unequal opportunities should be eliminated as a priority by any regime for which this magazine would have any respect. Yet it is the priority for none of our political parties.

Beyond this, Village believes that every policy and every institution should be assessed (‘equality-proofed’) for the extent to which it contributes to equality. The state’s principal role is to provide for equal quality of life for all of its citizens (and through sustainable development for that of future generations).

The best method for evaluating equality is the Gini coefficient and it is shocking that so little is heard about it in the discourse in 2015, even from the parties of the Left. If Labour could point to year-on-year improvements in the Gini coefficient during its periods in government, there might be a reason to vote for it.

Equality-proofing would be useful for any policy: for example the national development plan, departmental strategies and policies, local authority development plans, and all town and country planning decisions should be assessed for their impact on equality of outcome; and if they do not conduce to it , they should be changed.

Institutions from the Trade Unions to Nama to Sinn Féin could usefully subject their policies and actions to a rigorous scrutiny as to what they tend to achieve for equality, as registered by the Gini coefficient.

Finally. of course there must be practical application of abstract theories of equality. Certain spheres must be priorities. Any sector that has been discriminated against deserves measures to protect it against prejudice and indeed positive discrimination to reverse the prejudices of the ages. It is exciting to live in an age when so  much progress has been made on women’s rights, the rights of ethnic  minorities  and in rights  for gay people.  But there remains a slate of actions to right historical wrongs for these and other sectors.

For Village the most  important sectors for attention are those  that get it the least. The rights of Travellers, of people with disabilities, of asylum seekers, of trans, of fathers, the standard of living of the working poor and the unemployed, and the rights  of future generations faced with  climate change and species collapse.

Because it converges on, though never meets, a great human goal  the agenda of equality of outcome is a comprehensive one. Sadly the recent economic displosion and oncoming environmental cataclysm should have catalysed a radical shift towards more egalitarianism, and ultimately towards equality. Stringency, education, compassion, imagination and rat cunning are necessary virtues in its promotion, overt and otherwise. •