Alan Stout, Michael McBride and the BBC - further attacks on face covering exempt.

Catherine Edgar made this Freedom of Information request to Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

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Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,

This week, we have seen Alan Stout from the British Medical Association (BMA) attack face covering exemptions and Michael McBride (Department of Health, DoH) demand respect from those with a hidden disability who are unable to wear a face covering.

The British Broadcasting Corporation Northern Ireland (BBC) has acted irresponsibly, both in publishing Alan Stout's attack on face covering exemptions and in broadcasting Michael McBride. The BBC, Alan Stout and Michael McBride, are harassing and actively encouraging disability discrimination and vitriol, towards those who are disabled and unable to wear a face covering.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-...

"Ninety-nine per cent of people who have those conditions can wear a face mask," said the BMA's Dr Alan Stout.

"There are a small number of exemptions to wearing a mask and they are very, very small, so the vast majority of people should be wearing a mask," Dr Stout told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"Asthma is not an exemption," Dr Stout responded.

There were some occasions when an exemption could be made "if it makes you very uncomfortable wearing a mask", said the BMA's Northern Ireland representative.

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the British Medical Association and Alan Stout, with the view to promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to wear a face covering and those without a disability, who are able to wear a face covering.

Please confirm that the Commission has raised Regulation 5, of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 and outlined responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, with both the BMA and Alan Stout.

Also, evidence what steps the Commission has taken to begin the process, of ensuring Alan Stout, is sanctioned by the British Medical Association for misinforming the public about face covering exemptions and ultimately, dismissing the law that is Regulation 5 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.

Michael McBride:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-norther...

‘Chief medical officer Sir Michael Mc Bride says it "upsets" and "frustrates" him when he sees people not wearing a face covering "who clearly don't have an underlying health problem".’

Please outline what steps the Commission will take, with a view to promoting equality of opportunity between those with a hidden disability, who are unable to wear a face covering and those without a hidden disability, who are able to wear a face covering, in order to ensure Michael McBride is aware of hidden disabilities and, of his responsibilities, as Chief Medical Officer within the Department of Health, under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

As the Equality Commission has the power to initiate Section 75 investigations, please provide the criteria that must be met before the Commission initiates this process.

Please outline where, in this criterion, Michael McBride, of the Department of Health is situated because of the above.

British Broadcasting Corporation:

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Northern Ireland, with the view to reinforcing awareness of both Regulation 5 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, outlining recommendations that will prevent the broadcasting or publication, of discriminatory and harassing content like that of above.

Please demonstrate how the Commission, are fulfilling their functions, of promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to wear face coverings and those without a disability, who are able to wear face coverings and, how the Commission are working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment related to the above.

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Edgar

ECNI_Information, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

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Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,

Please provide an update that explains your failure to respond to my request.

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Edgar

Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,

ICO notified.

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Edgar

Eoin ONeill, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Dear Ms Edgar

Further to your email below I would advise that the information you request is not covered by the Freedom of Information legislation.

In relation to your section 75 query, the Commission may investigate an alleged breach of a Public Authority's approved equality scheme. The criteria that must be met are set out Schedule 9 paragraph 10 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

I would also refer you to my email of 20 December 2021 wherein I outlined the steps taken by the Commission in relation to COVID 19.

Yours sincerely

Eoin O'Neill
FOI Officer
Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
----

.-Original Message-----
From: Catherine Edgar <[FOI #815298 email]>
Sent: 11 December 2021 10:03
To: ECNI_Information <[email address]>
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Alan Stout, Michael McBride and the BBC - further attacks on face covering exempt.

[You don't often get email from [FOI #815298 email]. Learn why this is important at http://aka.ms/LearnAboutSenderIdentifica...

Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,

This week, we have seen Alan Stout from the British Medical Association (BMA) attack face covering exemptions and Michael McBride (Department of Health, DoH) demand respect from those with a hidden disability who are unable to wear a face covering.

The British Broadcasting Corporation Northern Ireland (BBC) has acted irresponsibly, both in publishing Alan Stout's attack on face covering exemptions and in broadcasting Michael McBride. The BBC, Alan Stout and Michael McBride, are harassing and actively encouraging disability discrimination and vitriol, towards those who are disabled and unable to wear a face covering.

https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

"Ninety-nine per cent of people who have those conditions can wear a face mask," said the BMA's Dr Alan Stout.

"There are a small number of exemptions to wearing a mask and they are very, very small, so the vast majority of people should be wearing a mask," Dr Stout told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"Asthma is not an exemption," Dr Stout responded.

There were some occasions when an exemption could be made "if it makes you very uncomfortable wearing a mask", said the BMA's Northern Ireland representative.

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the British Medical Association and Alan Stout, with the view to promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to wear a face covering and those without a disability, who are able to wear a face covering.

Please confirm that the Commission has raised Regulation 5, of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 and outlined responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, with both the BMA and Alan Stout.

Also, evidence what steps the Commission has taken to begin the process, of ensuring Alan Stout, is sanctioned by the British Medical Association for misinforming the public about face covering exemptions and ultimately, dismissing the law that is Regulation 5 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.

Michael McBride:

https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

'Chief medical officer Sir Michael Mc Bride says it "upsets" and "frustrates" him when he sees people not wearing a face covering "who clearly don't have an underlying health problem".'

Please outline what steps the Commission will take, with a view to promoting equality of opportunity between those with a hidden disability, who are unable to wear a face covering and those without a hidden disability, who are able to wear a face covering, in order to ensure Michael McBride is aware of hidden disabilities and, of his responsibilities, as Chief Medical Officer within the Department of Health, under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

As the Equality Commission has the power to initiate Section 75 investigations, please provide the criteria that must be met before the Commission initiates this process.

Please outline where, in this criterion, Michael McBride, of the Department of Health is situated because of the above.

British Broadcasting Corporation:

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Northern Ireland, with the view to reinforcing awareness of both Regulation 5 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, outlining recommendations that will prevent the broadcasting or publication, of discriminatory and harassing content like that of above.

Please demonstrate how the Commission, are fulfilling their functions, of promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to wear face coverings and those without a disability, who are able to wear face coverings and, how the Commission are working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment related to the above.

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Edgar

-------------------------------------------------------------------

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Eoin ONeill, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

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Dear Ms Edgar

 

I refer to your complaint to the Information Commissioners Office and
attach my response to your email of 11 December 2021 which I sent on 15
February 2022. I have also attached my email of 20 December 2021 which is
referred to in that correspondence. I confirm that the Commission does not
hold any evidence on the matters you have enquired about.

 

I trust that this deals with your query.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Eoin O’Neill

FOI & Data Protection Officer

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Equality House

7 – 9 Shaftesbury Square

Belfast BT2 7DP

 

Tel No: 02890 890859

 

 

Dear Eoin ONeill,

Thank you for the further information provided. I find it impossible to believe that the Equality Commission (the Commission) “does not hold any evidence on the matters you have enquired about."

Your response is an abject failure to demonstrate at all, how the Commission are fulfilling their functions, of promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to wear face coverings and those without a disability, who are able to wear face coverings and, how the Commission are working towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment related to the above. This is the Equality Commission's mission! This is why you exist!

Please clarify if the information held within the below email, is the only action the Commission has taken in response to face mask discrimination?

"Over the period of the pandemic, we have highlighted specific areas of concern regarding emerging or exacerbated inequalities and we have also provided advice to individuals and to employers, service providers and public authorities regarding their rights and responsibilities respectively. This includes advice to Public Authorities to consider any equality impacts and any opportunities to advance equality / mitigate any negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic arising from related public policy decisions."

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8...

Please demonstrate how you did this? Demonstrate (i.e. provide copy) how the Commission "highlighted specific areas of concern regarding emerging or exacerbated inequalities", provide advice given to "employers, service providers and public authorities regarding their rights and responsibilities respectively" etc, please demonstrate how the Commission did the above.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Edgar

Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Equality Commission for Northern Ireland's handling of my FOI request 'Alan Stout, Michael McBride and the BBC - further attacks on face covering exempt.'.

As stated in my previous email, I find it impossible to believe that the Equality Commission (the Commission) “does not hold any evidence on the matters [I] have enquired about."

The Commission stated in its annual report:

“The guidance materials related to COVID-19 covered issues such as: redundancy and coronavirus, face masks and overcoming barriers to communication, furlough, protecting pregnant employees during COVID-19, returning to work and the impacts on people with caring responsibilities, ensuring equality for disabled people post-lockdown. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐬, 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐬.”

https://www.equalityni.org/ECNI/media/EC...

I further asked the Commission to:

“Please demonstrate how you did this? Demonstrate (i.e. provide copy) how the Commission "highlighted specific areas of concern regarding emerging or exacerbated inequalities", provide advice given to "employers, service providers and public authorities regarding their rights and responsibilities respectively" etc, please demonstrate how the Commission did the above” and to clarify if information held within the referred to emails, was the only action the Commission had taken in response to face mask discrimination.

The Commission has failed to do any of the above. The Commission has failed to demonstrate how its functions are being fulfilled in the manner that I asked, by providing the requested information specifically related to the promotion of equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who were unable to wear face coverings and those without a disability, who were able to wear face coverings and, how the Commission worked towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment related to the above. I have not received any further communication from yourselves in relation to this.

Due to the Commission failing to do the above and its responses being insufficient considering the "blogs, media releases and press articles" related to face masks, and due to the Commissions further silence being unacceptable, I am asking for an internal review of the Commissions responses to myself.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Catherine Edgar

Eoin ONeill, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

Dear Ms Edgar

I acknowledge receipt of your request for a review of the Commission's response to your freedom of information request.

I will review the response and will revert to you by the end of next week. If you remain dissatisfied any complaint will then be dealt with under the Commission's complaints procedure by a more senior officer.

Regards

Eoin O'Neill
FOI Officer
Equality Commission for NI

show quoted sections

Eoin ONeill, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

 

 

 

 

Dear Ms Edgar

 

I refer to your email of 11 March requesting a review of the handling of
your FOI request ‘’Alan Stout, Michael McBride and the BBC – further
attacks on face covering exempt’’

 

I have set out below your FOI request with additional comments under the
RESPONSE headings by way of the Commission’s review. If you remain
dissatisfied you may make a complaint under the Commission’s Complaints
Procedure at
[1]https://www.equalityni.org/ECNI/media/EC...
or contact Frank McWilliams the Commission’s Complaints Co – Ordinator at
[2][email address]

 

Yours sincerely

 

Eoin O’Neill

Freedom of Information Officer

Equality Commission for NI

 

[Dear Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

 

This week, we have seen Alan Stout from the British Medical Association
(BMA) attack face covering exemptions and Michael McBride (Department of
Health, DoH) demand respect from those with a hidden disability who are
unable to wear a face covering

 

The British Broadcasting Corporation Northern Ireland (BBC) has acted
irresponsibly, both in publishing Alan Stout's attack on face covering
exemptions and in broadcasting Michael McBride. The BBC, Alan Stout and
Michael McBride, are harassing and actively encouraging disability
discrimination and vitriol, towards those who are disabled and unable to
wear a face covering.

 

[3]https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

 

"Ninety-nine per cent of people who have those conditions can wear a face
mask," said the BMA's Dr Alan Stout.

 

"There are a small number of exemptions to wearing a mask and they are
very, very small, so the vast majority of people should be wearing a
mask," Dr Stout told BBC News NI's Good Morning Ulster programme.

 

"Asthma is not an exemption," Dr Stout responded.

 

There were some occasions when an exemption could be made "if it makes you
very uncomfortable wearing a mask", said the BMA's Northern Ireland
representative.

 

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the
British Medical Association and Alan Stout, with the view to promoting
equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are unable to
wear a face covering and those without a disability, who are able to wear
a face covering.

 

RESPONSE: The Commission has not contacted the British Medical Association
or Alan Stout in relation to this matter

 

Please confirm that the Commission has raised Regulation 5, of The Health
Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern
Ireland) 2020 and outlined responsibilities under the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995, with both the BMA and Alan Stout.

 

RESPONSE: - The Commission has not raised Regulation 5 with either the BMA
or Alan Stout.

 

Also, evidence what steps the Commission has taken to begin the process,
of ensuring Alan Stout, is sanctioned by the British Medical Association
for misinforming the public about face covering exemptions and ultimately,
dismissing the law that is Regulation 5 of The Health Protection
(Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland)
2020.

 

RESPONSE: - This is not a matter for the Commission

 

Michael McBride:

 

[4]https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

 

‘Chief medical officer Sir Michael Mc Bride says it "upsets" and
"frustrates" him when he sees people not wearing a face covering "who
clearly don't have an underlying health problem".’

 

Please outline what steps the Commission will take, with a view to
promoting equality of opportunity between those with a hidden disability,
who are unable to wear a face covering and those without a hidden
disability, who are able to wear a face covering, in order to ensure
Michael McBride is aware of hidden disabilities and, of his
responsibilities, as Chief Medical Officer within the Department of
Health, under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, and the
Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

 

RESPONSE: - The Commission does not hold information on what steps it will
take in the future in relation to this matter

 

As the Equality Commission has the power to initiate Section 75
investigations, please provide the criteria that must be met before the
Commission initiates this process.

 

RESPONSE: -  Section 75 investigations relate to alleged breaches of an
approved equality scheme The criteria are set out in Schedule 9 of the
Northern Ireland Act 1998 and in the Commission's Policy for Complaints
and Investigations.

 

Please outline where, in this criterion, Michael McBride, of the
Department of Health is situated because of the above.

 

RESPONSE. This is a question and not a freedom of information request and
in any event it is not clear what the question is.

 

British Broadcasting Corporation

 

Please provide evidence that the Equality Commission has contacted the
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in Northern Ireland, with the view
to reinforcing awareness of both Regulation 5 of The Health Protection
(Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) Regulations (Northern Ireland)
2020 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, outlining recommendations
that will prevent the broadcasting or publication, of discriminatory and
harassing content like that of above.

 

RESPONSE: The Commission has not contacted the BBC in relation to this
matter.

 

Please demonstrate how the Commission, are fulfilling their functions, of
promoting equality of opportunity between those with a disability, who are
unable to wear face coverings and those without a disability, who are able
to wear face coverings and, how the Commission are working towards the
elimination of unlawful discrimination and harassment related to the
above.

 

RESPONSE: In relation to face coverings the Commission published two
separate advice notes on that topic: (a) [5]one on 30 April 2020 relating
to overcoming the communication barriers that face coverings might cause
for deaf and hard or hearing people and issued at a time when the wearing
of face coverings were not mandatory in law, and (b) [6]one on 30
September 2020 giving advice to service-providers following the
introduction of the mandatory face coverings regulations which came into
force in August of that year. Those advice notes were promoted through our
website, ezines and blogs. Since March 2020, our A&C Division dealt with
over 3,000 enquiries from a wide range of public bodies, employers and
service-providers on a wide range of subjects across all statutory
equality areas, most of which were not related to Covid-19, but it is not
possible, without an examination of each individual record, to establish
accurately the number of these enquiries that related specifically to face
coverings, although it is certain that some did. Any enquiries that did
relate to face coverings would have been answered consistently with the
advice notes that were published in April and September 2020.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Catherine Edgar

 

 

 

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Please use this email address for all replies to this request:

 

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Information requests to Equality Commission for Northern Ireland? If so,
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the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:

 

[10]https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

 

 

 

For more detailed guidance on safely disclosing information, read the
latest advice from the ICO:

 

[11]https://eur01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

 

 

 

Please note that in some cases publication of requests and responses will
be delayed.

 

 

 

If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your web
manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.

 

 

 

 

 

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References

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Dear Eoin,

Thank you for your response and for confirming the Equality Commission failed to promote equality of opportunity between those with a disability who were unable to wear a face mask, and those without a disability who were able to wear a face mask.

Thank you for also confirming that like the Department of Health, the Equality Commission lied in an official document when it claimed to promote face mask guidance materials through “media releases and press articles” as “those [two] advice notes were promoted through our website, ezines and blogs”.

Like the Department of Health, did the Equality Commission forget about newspapers, television, and radio?!

Like the Department of Health, the Equality Commission abandoned and ignored disabled people who were unable to wear a face mask. You both cruelly failed many people.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Edgar