The gay community has just lost not just one of our most powerful supporters, but the Irish government has managed to make untenable that rare thing in the Western world – a public sector agency which works for ‘the little people’.
The resignation of Niall Crowley from The Equality Authority is incredibly sad but, you feel, ultimately not very surprising. Here is a principled man working for an agency which endeavours to protect the rights of minorities. In a country that seems to be chasing its financial tail, the rights of the few are forgotten in the panic of the many.
On RTE Radio this morning, Mr Crowley agreed that The Equality Authority was seen as “a pain in the neck” for the government as many of the cases it has on its books relate to descrimination in public sector bodies. He felt that the agency was a fly in the ointment greasing the economy.
A country is made up of more than just its economy. It’s made up of its people, diverse as they are, and this is something which, now more than ever, needs to be remembered. Inflation, deflation, credit crunches and recessions aren’t just catchphrases for economists, they directly affect people’s lives. It is now that the Dept of Justice needs to live up to its name and ensure we are as protected as ever in these uncertain times.
But will it make a difference? Will his resignation be the eye-opener the general public need? Let’s be honest, a government that steals money from over-70s and education from children isn’t going to care very much about people with disabilities, the Travelling Community, the lgbt community, people of colour and so on. It’s up to the public to care and make a difference as they showed they can in the case of medical cards of over-70s.
In a statement today, the Equality & Rights Alliance (ERA), a coalition of 71 civil society organisations, said that Crowley “had been forced into this position because of the budget actions which had effectively rendered the Equality Authority unviable”.
This is the government’s fault, make no mistake. Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Mark Kelly said Mr Crowley had taken “the only honourable course of action open to him” after the government but the Equality Authority’s budget by nearly half (43%) more than any other agency under the remit of the Dept of Justice.
The Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern said he makes no apologies for the funding cuts, saying that they needed the funds to bolster garda resources in tackling crime. In doing so, however, according to the chair of the ERA, Joanna McMinn, “The work of the Equality Authority has been fatally compromised.”
We need to gather and protest not the resignation of one man but the assassination of an agency created to protect “Equality in a Diverse Ireland”.