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'People in council estates won't put down their address on job applications for fear of discrimination'

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said he had heard many stories of people hiding where they are from.

SOME PEOPLE FROM disadvantaged areas are not putting their address on job applications for fear of discrimination.

“At a recent clinic I was asked to help a woman apply for a job with a large employer,” said Fianna Fáil Jim O’Callaghan tonight when introducing his party’s Equality Bill 2017.

He said he was happy to help, but was astonished when she told him that she would not be putting down her address on the application as it would result in her not getting the job.

“She told me that she would not put the address where she resides on the job application. She lived in a local authority estate and told me that she was not putting her address on the form because she believed that she would be discriminated against because people from that estate did not get jobs,” he said, adding:

This was because certain employers discriminated against people from there because it had an association with antisocial behaviour or minor criminal activity. I was surprised by this and asked others in the area if they had a similar experience.
I was astonished by the extent to which people who live in this local authority estate told me that when they applied for certain jobs and certain employers, people who live there do not put down their address because – and so many of them believe this that I think it is sufficient evidence to advance the idea – they believe that they are discriminated against because of where they live.

O’Callaghan told the Dáil that it wasn’t just employers that are discriminating against those in disadvantaged areas.

Block of flats

One mother told him her son was refused a place in a local school because she lived in a block of flats.

He said he was surprised when the woman said her young son was not attending the local national school but was attending a private school in the area.

“I was astonished by the efforts this woman was going to… valiant efforts when you consider the effort she went to send her son to a private school,” he said.

“She said that none of the people in the local authority flats who had applied to this school had their sons accepted there and as a result all the children from the flats had to go to another national school which was further away. She said it was very rough and she did not want her son to go there. It is unacceptable for national schools, our schools, to discriminate and say that they will not take children from the flats,” he added.

He said his party’s Bill, which seeks to extend the scope of current employment equality legislation by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disadvantaged socio-economic or social backgrounds, would ensure that national schools are not able to discriminate against “kids from the flats”.

“It is disturbing to hear that some schools are not taking some children from certain areas,” he said.

‘Law needs to be changed’

He said a change in the law is needed to ensure that no employer or school can discriminate against someone from a block of flats, just because then have a “negative view” of an area.

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t keep trying to evolve our laws and send out a message that it is unacceptable to discriminate on basis you come from a disadvantaged area,” said O’Callaghan.

This isn’t the first time the issue has been highlighted.

Last year, Paul McKeown, from Dublin’s north inner city stood up in Sheriff Street Youth Centre and told the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he has experienced discrimination while job-seeking, despite having a Master’s degree and being fluent in Portuguese.

McKeown said he had seen correspondence after his interview which said:

“How could a knacker like that speak Portuguese.”

“No one, no one should have to deal with that,” said Kenny speaking about the blatant discrimination, adding that he would look into his case.

Government opposing Bill

Despite making the case for the Equality Bill, the government are opposing the private members Bill.

Minister of State David Stanton said there is robust protections in place in employment and equality law to combat discrimination.

He said the government agrees with the principle of what the Bill is attempting to achieve, stating: “We do not wish to see someone denied access to employment or to goods and services because that person lives in at a particular address or belongs to a particular type of family.”

However, he said the Bill was ambiguous and “flawed”.

“It would introduce an ambiguous and wide-ranging definition of ‘disadvantaged socio-economic status’,” he said.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the ambiguity would create the risk of increasing the number of potential claims under the equality legislation exponentially.

“The potential impact on the public and private sector could be significant,” he said.

The minister added: “If claims were to rise exponentially, this could impose an undue burden on business, employers and on public service providers. Care must be taken to ensure that measures do not go beyond what is reasonable, proportionate, and above all, necessary.”

Read: Taoiseach says Ireland will not be joining a European army>

Read: ‘Learner drivers who drive unaccompanied are breaking the law. They mustn’t do it and we must enforce it’>

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