Lord Laird – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Northern Ireland Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Laird on 2016-05-19.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and others who live for part of the week in Northern Ireland can avail themselves fully of parity of esteem, and if not, what parts of the concept of parity of esteem they are unable to avail themselves of.

Lord Dunlop

This Government understands the concept of parity of esteem, as set out in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, as placing a general obligation on the UK Government to treat people of different traditions in Northern Ireland fairly and with equal respect. In the Agreement it is clearly expressed and defined in relation to people living in Northern Ireland.

As a general obligation there is no definition of particular circumstances in which it does or does not apply.

As I have set out in previous replies to the Noble Lord, this Government is firm in its commitment to the protection of people against any form of discrimination, and the promotion of opportunity for all, across the whole of our United Kingdom.

In respect of the Noble Lord’s question about those who might march wearing army uniforms but who are not members of an army, the concept of parity of esteem clearly does not absolve people from upholding the law. This Government has made clear many times that we will never accept any form of equivalence between members of the security forces and those who engage in terrorism or other forms of paramilitary activity.