#Addthe10th Alliance presentation at Leinster House

On 23rd November the #Addthe10th alliance, presented the campaign at the Leinster House AV room.  The #Addthe10th alliance are a group NGO’s, community and voluntary organisations working together to have socio- economic status recognised as tenth ground of discrimination in the equality legislation.  Over the last couple of years, the alliance has expanded but currently includes ATD Ireland, EAPN (European Anti-Poverty Network) Ireland, INOU (Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed), AHEAD (Association for Higher Education, Access and Disability), CAN (Community Action Network), ILMI (Independent Living Movement Ireland) and FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres).  In 2019, the alliance came together for the launch of the ‘Does it only happen to me: living in the shadows of socio- economic discrimination’ report.   In 2021, they wrote a letter to Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O Gorman requesting a meeting.  This meeting took place in June 2021.  Further, the #Addthe10th submitted a collective response to the government consultation for the review of the equality acts, which was announced in June 2021.  We launched the social media campaign with supporters of the campaign posing with the ‘missing jigsaw piece’ in March 2022, with support from IHREC.  This was soon followed by an online petition– both of which are still underway.

Click here to read more about all of this.

The panel included ATD Ireland community activists Andrew and Gavin, along with representatives from INOU, AHEAD, EAPN Ireland, ILMI and CAN.  This event was organized by Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein, but was attended by members of various political parties, independents and civil servants. 

After an introduction by Mary Lou McDonald, Paul Ginnell from EAPN Ireland introduced the alliance and the campaign to have socio- economic status recognized as the tenth ground of discrimination in Irish equality legislation.  

Damien Walshe from ILMI gave an overview of the historical context of the equality legislation and mention of the review – with a focus on the 10th ground.  The equality legislation was first introduced in 1998- including the Irish Equal Status Act and the Employment Equality Act.  There was a review of the employment equality act in 2001 in which the idea of adding a socio- economic status ground was discussed.  2009 saw the weakening of Ireland’s equality and human rights infrastructure including the Equality Authority, the Irish Human Rights Commission, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism and the Combat Poverty Agency.   The formation of the Equality and Rights Alliance (ERA) brought together over 100 civil society organisations, trade unions and activists to challenge these budget cuts.  “…it also became a collective voice to protect and promote equality and human rights approaches but also to advance a strategic vision for Ireland’s equality and human rights infrastructure” (Damien Walshe).  In 2015, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, after a submission from IHREC, concluded that the Irish legislation does not provide protection against discrimination on all grounds of discrimination prohibited by the 1976 UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by Ireland in 1989).  The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 was brought before the Dail on 27th June 2017.  The Bill proposed to include ‘disadvantaged socio- economic status’ as a new ground defined as ‘a socially identifiable status of social or economic disadvantage resulting from poverty, level or source of income, homelessness, place of residence, or family background’.  However, this bill was later blocked by a money message.  The work of the ERA was wound up during the summer of 2019, due to a lack of staff funding.  However, the #Addthe10th alliance continue to campaign for legal protection against socio- economic discrimination to be introduced.  You can read about all of this in more detail in our 2019 report ‘Does it only happen to me: Living in the shadows of socio- economic discrimination’.

Brid O Brien from INOU then gave a breakdown of the cultural and societal significance and what the impact of the addition of a tenth ground would be.  “The current nine grounds of discrimination are insufficient in the context of widening social and economic inequalities”.   There is also a need to overhaul other elements of the existing legislation.  Taking a case should be accessible and people and communities should be widely informed about their rights.  The equality legislation should greater recognise the intersectionality between the grounds and the potential for someone to be discriminated against on multiple grounds.  In particular, any change to the equality legislation should include a removal of section 14 of the equality act which prevents someone taking a case of discrimination against the state.  Further, in order to truly be effective, the equality legislation should require organisations to implement policies which are proactive in combatting socio- economic discrimination and inclusive of people from marginalised backgrounds. 

ATD Ireland community activist Gavin spoke about his lived experience of socio- economic discrimination, particularly in relation to growing up in Darndale.

“Communities such as Darndale, Ballymun and many others are lacking in resources, with very few opportunities for the youth, especially when I was growing up”.… ‘as a child I remember walking around, looking at the place and seeing just how bad of a state it was in you know?  There were no football pitches… the crime was rampant there… it was a tough environment to put a child in’”.

“Young people and members of these communities inherit the stigma that was attached with the area since the 70’s and 80’s.  ‘You soak up the environment, what’s going on… they’re looking up to all older gangs and things like that, because it’s a tough area, like you need protection… and then before you know it, you’re on the midst of it all, and the resources weren’t there’”.

Read more here.

Community activist Andrew then spoke on behalf of himself and his wife Lorraine.

“I feel when Ireland does add socio- economic discrimination as a 10th ground we could be a lighthouse for all of Europe.  So, for anyone that doesn’t know, a lighthouse is a beacon of hope for sailors to make sure they get safe to shore.  So, I hope as we let out own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.  I feel when this does happen we would save so many lives.  Can you imagine a father from a disadvantaged area goes for multiple job interviews, he has all the qualifications but doesn’t get the job because he is from this certain area, can you imagine the mental torture that he is going through? All that he wants to do is provide for his young family but he’s not being given the chance”.

Richard from AHEAD spoke to the intersection between socio- economic discrimination and the other nine grounds.  He discussed this with particular reference to the intersection between socio- economic status and disability.  Many of those living with a disability are at risk of poverty, due to discrimination and the hidden high costs of living with a disability. 

Paul then concluded the briefing on behalf of the alliance.  He gave a final call for the addition of disadvantaged socio- economic status in the equality legislation and spoke to the need for cross party support and collaboration on the issue.

Mary Lou then opened up the floor to comments and questions from the audience.

Comments included a discussion on how young people with ADHD are often unfairly ostracised.  There was a comment on how the #addthe10th campaign relates to the recent social welfare bill.  We talked about how certain communities are entirely labelled as ‘gangland’ areas although in generally it is only a very small proportion of the community actually involved in crime.  We also discussed how a similar lack of opportunities can be experienced by those living in Gaeltacht areas.  Further, we discussed how the government should prioritise the funding of community organisations which often act as spaces for individuals to reflect on their experiences, seek support and become better aware of their rights.

Thank you very much to Mary Lou Mc Donald and Sinn Fein for organising this event and thank you very much to members of all political parties who attended the briefing and who have shown support to the campaign.  ATD Ireland and the #Addthe10th alliance will continue to reach out to and engage all political parties and members of government in relation to this issue.

Thank you very much to the #Addthe10th alliance for their ongoing solidarity and collaboration.

Thanks to ATD Ireland for organising the event last week.  Also again, particularly well done to Andrew and Gavin for the strong contributions.  It was important to have that opportunity in Leinster House.  Something we can build on when the review of the equality legislation moves on”- Paul, EAPN Ireland.

Thank you particularly to Andrew and Gavin for sharing their experiences of socio- economic discrimination and voluntarily sharing their wisdom and insight in order to progress this campaign.  

They were overall happy with how the presentation went and took note of its importance;

“The Leinster House event was really good. First of all, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you that I have spoken in crowds with near to 500 people there but at this event at Leinster House I was the most nervous I have ever been.  Not in my speech but within my body.  Now some people might think that to be bad but what I took out of me being nervous was this is my home (Ireland) this is my kid’s home.  Now I know the reason I was that nervous because it’s affecting change where I grew, where my kids will be living for the foreseeable future.  That’s why I was nervous and to be sitting next to Mary Lou McDonald such an inspirational woman, what an honour.  I just hope that the work we did there on that day is a beacon of hope for Ireland.  Thank you”- Andrew. 

This event was a significant moment in the #Addthe10th campaign but also as a moment where people with lived experiences of poverty and socio- economic discrimination had the opportunity to have a direct dialogue with politicians in government buildings.  We hope that this will become a more common occurrence where people with lived experience are included – not just to share their experiences but in critical thinking and in creating solutions. 

A paradigm shift is needed in the way the system understands and develops anti- poverty strategy and policies– Dann.

See here to read more about the #Addthe10th alliance and learn about how you can support the campaign.