Delivering Equality: Equality Mainstreaming and Constitutionalisation of Socio-Economic Rights
University of Ulster - Transitional Justice Institute
Eithne McLaughlin (deceased)
November 12, 2009
Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 09-11
This article examines the contribution (if any) the role of law plays in the promotion and protection of equality. Our particular purpose is to explore whether or not law in the form of ‘mainstreaming’ and the constitutional protection and the judicial enforcement of rights, in particular social and economic rights, can help in the creation of a society that promotes equality and guards against inequality. These two legal tools are but two parts, although highly important parts, of a bigger equality jigsaw. Due to the constraints of length and space, the other pieces of the jigsaw will not be considered in this article. The primary focus is to consider the potential and limitations of these two tools and the relationship between them to help deliver equality. Regarding equality mainstreaming, we examine the operation of the equality mainstreaming model that has been adopted in Northern Ireland, most notably section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (the 1998 Act). Although Northern Ireland has been provided with the ‘constitutional moment’ through the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (the Agreement), in which the constitutional protection of social and economic rights had become politically achievable, at the time of writing, constitutionalisation has yet to occur. Subsequently, we draw upon the experience from other jurisdictions that have constitutionalised social and economic rights, most notably South Africa, to help reach a conclusion on the second route’s capability to deliver equality. Furthermore, having taken into account the strengths and weaknesses of the South African experience, as the precise model of protecting social and economic rights in a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland has yet to be determined, the article is intended to contribute to and inform the present discussion in Northern Ireland and in other jurisdictions currently in the process of constitutionalising socio-economic rights. In so doing, the article therefore stands at a praxis of academic interface with real policy issues.
Keywords: Equality, Constitutionalisation, Socio-Economic Rights
Date posted: November 18, 2009
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