19 February 2015
Koulla Yiasouma, incoming Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) said:
“I am deeply disappointed and concerned by today’s announcement that Junior Ministers Bell and McCann intend to exclude children under 16 from proposed legislation prohibiting discrimination, on the grounds of age when accessing goods, facilities and services.
“Surely, I am not the only person who sees the irony of age discrimination legislation that, in itself, discriminates against a certain age group!
“Exclusion means that vulnerable children and their parents and guardians cannot challenge discrimination when children are denied medical treatment, access to social care services, retail, education or housing on the basis of their age.
“NICCY and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI) have been working together over the past two years, and have presented a compelling case with expert legal advice and evidence which shows the need for all children under the age of 18 to be protected by such legislation.
“Nothing has been presented to either body, which goes against this evidence. Indeed, children are already protected on other equality grounds such as sex, race, religious belief and disability. There is no legal or other reason why they should not be protected on the grounds of age.
“The NI Government reiterated its commitment to equality and human rights in the Stormont House agreement, yet by excluding children under the age of 16 these commitments now appear hollow.
“A clear message must be sent to the children of Northern Ireland that their government will protect them from being discriminated against simply because they are young. I urge government to reconsider its intention to exclude young people from this legislation.
“It is regrettable that before I even formally take up the role of Commissioner for Children and Young People, I am compelled to oppose such a blatant denial of children’s rights.”
Notes to Editors