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Author: Duane Farrell, Director of Policy
Published on 02 May 2014 03:00 PM

On the Scrapheap.
A Hierarchy of Equality?

This morning’s news that Pat Kelso, an 81 year old woman in Fermanagh was discriminated against as a result of her age, while shocking and upsetting, is far from surprising.

Older people and the age sector have been highlighting age discrimination and calling for legislation for over 10 years now. What makes it even more shocking is that this discrimination is still legal here in Northern Ireland. To hear Pat talk about the worry, anxiety and money that her experience cost her, you imagine it’s a ‘no-brainer’ that this damaging discrimination should be outlawed, particularly when it is on the rest of these islands.

Our political leaders in the NI Executive promised to address this when they produced the Programme for Government back in 2011. Nearly three years later and officials told the Committee for OFMdFM that there is not even a date for the consultation on this issue to be launched, never mind a timeline to make sure that our politicians deliver what they promised by the end of this Assembly.

There is significant public support for this legislation. Back in 2008 in a poll undertaken by Age NI’s legacy organisations, 93% of respondents agreed that it should be unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age. There is also significant political support for the legislation. In a Stratagem/ComRes poll taken last year, 87% of MLA’s from all parties agreed that it must be a priority for this current NI Executive to deliver legislation outlawing age discrimination.

The current draft of the Ageing Strategy that OFMdFM is consulting on, recognises that ‘Poverty, ageism, prejudice, disrespect and negative stereotyping are the root causes of the disadvantage older people face on a daily basis’, yet the very same Department has missed every milestone it promised in the Programme for Government to deliver this legislation.

Pat talked about how she felt ‘angry, upset and on the scrapheap’ as a result of her experiences. The time has come for action from OFMdFM on this matter.

Age NI and our partners, Age Sector Platform, are calling for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to publish a credible timeline to get this legislation passed before May 2016 and ensure that older people and the age ground receive the protection from harmful discrimination which should be their right.

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575