Setting the Criteria - Tackling Discrimination
Date:1987
Organisation: Sinn Féin
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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

10th June 2013

This document published by Sinn Féin in 1987 provides an insight into SF analysis and proposals in the area of discrimination in Northern Ireland during the 1980s.

It notes that:

Almost 20 years after the issue of job discrimination against nationalists was highlighted by the civil rights struggle, the response of the British government has been the begrudging acknowledgement that discrimination does exist. Last year it published proposals ostensibly aimed at tackling the problem. Sinn Féin argues that not only are these proposals inadequate but that they would not have been made at all had it not been for the MacBride Principles campaign in the USA which has put international pressure on Britain.

It continues:

The MacBride Principles are seen in the USA as acceptable and reasonable objectives on a parallel with the campaign for the adoption of the Sullivan (Anti-Apartheid) Principles.

In the section headlined Background the document notes - perhaps to forestall criticism - that:

This paper does not intend arguing the republican contention that Britain cannot reform the Six-County state to the extent that support dwindles for the aspiration for Irish reunification. Its purposes are: (i) To show that Britain - as the de facto government - is responsible for job discrimination against Catholics/Nationalists and that it has shown no genuine interest in tackling the problem; (ii) To set down alternative proposals, which deal more effectively with the problem at this time; and (iii) To set as the ultimate criterion of any proposals the actual effect of their implementation.

Before making specific proposals - such as ‘clear and comprehensive legal powers are required to eradicate discrimination and to ensure that equality of opportunity is realised’ - it notes:

Sinn Féin does not believe that the eradication of discrimination can be achieved within the confines of a Six-County state or under the auspices of a British government. Nevertheless, the responsibility of attempting to tackle this historic/structural problem lies with the British government as creators of and apologists for the Six-county state. We repeat that the ultimate criterion of any proposals is the actual effect of their implementation - they must lead to an end to sectarian discrimination in employment within tangible timescales.

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  • By: Kevin Bean Wed, 12 Jun 2013 14:46:36

    Thanks for posting this document.Its significance for our understanding of the political and ideological trajectory of the Provisionals is often overlooked.It is a good early example of the ‘equality agenda’ and a harbinger of later ‘constitutional politics’ in demanding legally enforcable codes of practice and other aspects of late ‘GLC-style leftism’.

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