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Friday, December 12, 2008

Equality’s Mister Right goes

Reports suggest that Niall Crowley the head of the Equality has tendered his resignation in protest against budget cuts. The Equality Authority has a brief to ensure that fairness and transparency is applied int eh decision relating to gender, race, age, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, family status, membership of the Travelling Community. I understand where he’s coming from, if you are CEO of a new agency and have an agenda that may sometime see you in conflict with the government and then you see them tell you that you’re being decentralised to a building that isn’t wheelchair accessible in a town which has for years looked for a town council yet been refused and you’re the equality authority, well it’s time to ask yourself why bother who’s listening? Budget estimates plan to reduce Crowley’s budget by 43% in 2009.
The reality is that Crowley has been in conflict with government and in addition to being on the transfer list he has also been in the media as a result of decisions by his authority. Crowley has taken on golf clubs, bishops and publicans.
The move by Crowley also puts the spotlight back on the Green Party. Greens have always believed equality is one of their key issues. Despite this they don’t seem to have taken Crowley’s obvious recent discomfort seriously. Fine Gael are a party that are opposed to what they call quangos and would be happy to see less. Fianna Fail dislike bodies like the equality authority because they award cash to minorities so who will voice the opposition to this move? The reality is that private industry has no time for the dicisons relating to discrimination which the authority is responsible for,
Of course FF & The Greens use the recession as a cover to move against the Equality Authority and presumably the focus will move on to the Human Rights Commission, a body set up by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. This however fools few. We often hear about a bonfire of the quangos but the reality of the populist call is that there had to obviously be an initial need for these bodies and their work in the first place. Calls for their abolition usually come from people who’ve little experience of their work, unless of course you’re the m
Minister for Justice!
I often wonder about quangos why it is that the powers that be are more happy to set them up before they finance them adequately. I think that often these bodies are reluctantly dragged out of the government. When they’re up they’re tolerated so long as they don’t want either employees or money. When they report, the CEO’s always sound embarrassed when asked on national radio about their initial brief and intial budget proposals. I stand to be corrected but I would have difficulty naming a semi state or state sponsored body that actually has been given the budget allocation it initially requested.
Under Fianna Fail such bodies have rocketed and that’s not because they’re packing boards with their buddies. Many of these boards are needed to do a job. I disagree with FG when they say they’d rationalise these. What’s important is the service they provide, in the case of welfare, the ability of the HSE to deliver services is limited, I’d rather in the area of welfare of children see a state body given the job. In reality without semi states to do these jobs how can you expect a department to police itself. So who exactly will step into Niall Crowley’s shoes and motivate the authority to pursue the interest of those who feel outside the pale? Given the iew of the authority itself that the budget would render the Equality Authority unable to fully or effectively carry out the full range of its core functions under the equality legislation and relevant EU Directives.


Ben said...

People need to focus on individual rights, not group rights. Focussing on equal outcomes invariably leads to individual injustice as groups tend to perform differently. For instance, in Dan Seligman's book 'A Question of Intelligence' he notes that East Asians tend to outperform whites on non-verbal elements in the tests (whether taken in the US, Asia, or the UK & also when adopted by non Asian families). So, expecting whites to be as represented in math/science professions per population seems unrealistic. Likewise, Ashkenazi Jews consistently score above average on psychometric tests. Not every group is going to be represented in the professions to the same extent. There is, however, overlap amongst groups so you can't imply much about an individual based on a group average.

This is why insisting on equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity is beating up against human nature & evolution.

Unknown said...

I disagree entirely. I think that you fundamentally misinterpret the effect of environment on learning, in particular the inability in a society like Ireland, where in the EU we have the highest levels of inequality, of many parents to provide the type of environment within which we know learning prospers. Your comments ignore the Irish experience where inequity in education is rife, ironically a area which the EA rarely impacted on other than the recent Cork VEC case.

You also ignores the entire concept about what do we actually mean by learning. My experience is that learning is measured usually on societies needs as opposed to encouraging the individual innovation and inventiveness. Societies where this approach is taken are generally more egalitarian. How many doctors are there born and raised in Dublin 1, how many building labourers are born and reared in Foxrock?

Ben said...

"Your comments ignore the Irish experience where inequity in education is rife, ironically a area which the EA rarely impacted on other than the recent Cork VEC case."

Yes, well of course I agree that a reasonable quality of child care, early childhood education should be available for all. My point is simply that these equality organisations need to focus on ensuring processes are fair, and that people have an equal chance.

However, going beyond that and demanding actual equal outcomes for groups (ie. through quotas or affirmative action) seems unfair. People need to be treated as individuals, not as members of groups. Otherwise it simply leads to more discrimination against other individuals because they are in the wrong group.

Unknown said...

I don't accept your argument that its the states function to just provide for rights as opposed to provide rights. I believe the state has an obligation to each citizen and must uphold that citizens rights.

Your earlier premise that individuals are naturally more inclined towards some areas of learning over others and your suggestion that it is some way evolutionary and inevitable ignores the reality that in no other species is this observation made for. Genetics and evolution do not work differently in the context of human development. What makes us different is that we have the intellectual capacity to rationalise on fairness. This is no way a genomic characteristic