Appendix 11 (EQIA - The Flying of the Union Flag)
Appendix 11: Response from the Equality Commission NI
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland response to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) of proposed policy on the flying of the Union Flag
The Commission welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Council’s consultation on the proposed policy on the flying of the Union Flag EQIA.
The Commission’s remit in this area derives from our duties under the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998 to promote equality of opportunity, affirmative action, to work for the elimination of religious/political discrimination and our duty to offer advice to public authorities in relation to Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Defining the Aims of the Policy
Background context for developing the policy is provided i.e. the Council’s current policy on the flying of the Union flag is an amalgamation of custom and practice adopted from the four legacy councils that formed Causeway Coast and Glens in 2015. The EQIA states that the policy is being revised to reflect a Notice of Motion ratified by the Council on 1 June 2021 and that the policy aims are to align Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council with “the new guidance published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to have the Union flag flown on Council and Civic buildings every day (365 days)”. The EQIA acknowledges that this guidance does not apply to Northern Ireland, references the call in notice which objected to the motion and the screening determination of adverse impacts on the grounds of political opinion and religious belief.
The policy states a range of locations where it is proposed that the Union Flag would be flown and that these would be reviewed on an ongoing basis. This aspect of the proposed policy should be clarified.
Consideration of available data and research
The EQIA includes a range of data and research, including information on other Council policies on the flying of the Union Flag and Council policies which have relevance to this policy. Quite extensive information is included on specific Commission advice to various Councils, on this subject matter over a period of time. The information contained in the screening succinctly summarises Commission advice.
Consideration of alternative policies and measures to mitigate adverse impacts:
Where a policy shows a possible adverse impact on any group, the EQIA should include consideration of measures which might mitigate these impact(s) and of alternative policies which might better achieve the promotion of equality of opportunity. Such considerations should be central to an EQIA and be included in the EQIA so that consultees may evaluate the information and the potential impact of mitigations/alternative policies on equality of opportunity and good relations.
Despite identifying a potential major impact, the EQIA has not set out or considered any mitigations or alternative policies. While the consultation questionnaire issued to consultees presents alternatives to the policy these are not included in the main EQIA report. This places the onus on consultees to consider impacts. Responsibility to identify alternative policies or mitigations and their impacts lies with the council as opposed to consultees and these should have been included in the EQIA report to enable consultees to make an informed decision.
The final EQIA should include the monitoring plans, as required by the Council’s equality scheme, in order to monitor the impact of this policy. Monitoring arrangements are not included in the draft EQIA.
This response is made without prejudice to any consideration or determination which the Commission might make in performance of its statutory function to investigate individual complaints under Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 or conduct any other investigation under that Schedule.
The Commission would welcome the opportunity to discuss any aspect of our response further should this be required.