Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fourth Report


3. The general remit for the inquiry was to consider the extent to which the 1976 and 1989 Acts succeeded in their objectives and the difficulties which have arisen in implementing their provisions. The inquiry examined the past role of the Fair Employment Commission and the future role of the new Equality Commission, the operation of the complaints procedure, affirmative action and reverse discrimination, and the institutional arrangements within Government for ensuring equality, among other issues. We focussed on how, in particular, the experience of the past ten years may be of assistance in pointing to the need for any future reform of the legislation and of Government policy more generally. We asked about the extent to which there is a continuing problem of inequality between Protestants and Roman Catholics in employment and about the costs and benefits of the legislation to date.

4. We took oral evidence on nine occasions and our witnesses included Ministers, the Fair Employment Commission, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and representatives of the two sides of industry.[6] Some witnesses also submitted supplementary written evidence.[7] We are most grateful to all who submitted evidence.

5. In the course of this inquiry, we visited the United States of America from 10 to13 May to seek to draw on American experience in combating discrimination in employment. We visited Washington, New York and Boston and had a range of informal meetings and seminars. A list of those with whom we had meetings is given in the Annex to this Report: we also met a large number of other people socially. We gained some very useful insights from this visit and our discussions and we would like to express our thanks to all concerned. We would also like to thank Her Majesty's Ambassador to the United States, Sir Christopher Meyer KCMG, Her Majesty's Consuls-General in New York and Boston, Mr Jeffrey Ling CMG and Mr James Poston, and their respective staff, for the very considerable efforts they put into ensuring the success of our visit.

6. We have been ably advised in this inquiry by Dr Christopher McCrudden, Reader in Law, Oxford University and Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. We are most grateful to him for his guidance in relation to all aspects of this inquiry.

6  A full list of those who gave oral evidence may be found at p.xli. Back

7  For a list Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence and of Unprinted Papers, see pp. xliii and xliv respectively Back

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Prepared 29 July 1999