“I think it is somewhat contemptuous.”

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It’s difficult to argue with Jeffrey Dudgeon’s comments on the Office of the Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Minister last minute compliance with an FoI request – 320 days after the application was made, and one day before a judicial review hearing into the delay was due to begin.  From the BBC report

Jeffrey Dudgeon had brought legal action over the delay.

A judicial review hearing was due on 8 November but the outstanding material was sent to him on 7 November

Mr Dudgeon, a self-litigant and chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party’s South Belfast Association, accepted that proceedings against the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister should now be withdrawn.

However, he criticised the delay in providing a full answer given the normal 20-day time limit for responding to FoI requests.

He told Belfast High Court: “They did provide the documents to me at the very last minute.

“But I have to say that I find it somewhat high-handed to provide them at 6.30 at night, 320 days after my application.

“I think it is somewhat contemptuous.”

[As open and transparent as possible! - Ed]

As I’ve mentioned before,

“Abuse of power”, much?  [It's still "a fragile flower which requires careful tending…" - Ed]  Apparently so.

The BBC report goes on to note

The FoI request to OFMDFM dealt with the exemption for teachers from an EU directive in 2000 outlawing employment discrimination on grounds of religion and sexual orientation.

Northern Ireland is the only part of Europe to have exceptions put into the directive. [added emphasis]

As well teachers, there had been an exemption for the PSNI under the 50:50 recruitment police.

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  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    I wasn’t aware that schools belonging to a particular religious persuasion and in receipt of public funding could discriminate against certain teachers based on their religious identity. Seems totally wrong to me.

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Welcome Joe to Northern Ireland 2012. Whatever you do don’t bang a big drum, or you will be going around in circles with this one, we would not want to offend or be sectarian.

    It would seem Joe that a large section of teachers are second class citizens when it comes to employment, now that is something dang a big drum about. I wonder will there be many bishops and priests on the TV going around and around to square that one. Thought not!!!

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Joe, discrimination might not just be limited to community background, it might also be related to where the teaching qualification was acquired.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Nevin, Then it just keeps getting worse.

  • Red Lion

    Yes Joe, it is ridiculous. Why should it be even brought into it what religion, say, a geography or maths teacher is.

    Though,at risk of hypocrisy, i must highlight, at my state school back in the day, in a proddy area, at various times my art, maths,english, economics, history teachers were all Catholics.

    Wonder why they didn’t choose to teach in the Catholic Schools? There was more than a smattering of Catholic pupils also.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Red Lion,

    I suspect that, irregardless of what Jesus is reported to have said, not all “Catholic” teachers were created equal. I’m sure you know the expression “brown nosing”.

  • Red Lion

    Well, now that you say, actually it was 2 art teachers, the maths and economics teachers were out and out hippies. The english teacher swore like a trooper, often said the c word in class and was loved for it. Not sure they’d have fitted in at a religious school

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Back in my day in the 70′s, we had several Roman Catholic teachers throughout my 5 years at secondary school. Everyone knew who they were but as far as I know no one gave them any bother?

    One I particularly liked taught technical drawing, a subject were he could make the object in the diagram that was 2D and with a few hints we could turn it into 3D drawing.

  • Pete Baker

    Focus, gentlemen.

    Re-read the original post if required…

  • babyface finlayson

    Petee
    I see that OFMDFM offered an apology but not an explanation. Poor show.
    By the way, does the exemption allow for discrimination against gay people as it seems to imply, or is it confined to discrimination on religious grounds?

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    I’m a strong advocate of openness and transparency as well as accountability in government, irrespective of party. What happens if you can’t easily follow the High Court route or you haven’t got the ear of the BBC or other parts of the MSM? The BBC has missed out on the 1570+ day wait by a widow for action by a different government department. The story also references Stormont’s claim to following Westminster best practice in governance but not doing so.

  • Pete Baker

    babyface

    That’s a good question, but not one I have an answer to.

    Perhaps Jeffrey will enlighten us during his proposed campaign

    Outside the court Mr Dudgeon said he was seeking to find out the reasoning for seeking such an exception.

    He added: “This FoI request was the prequel to a developing campaign to ensure fair employment law is applied in Northern Ireland, without exception, and that the executive at the very least implements the Equality Commission’s report of 2004 which recommended the exemption’s abolition in secondary schools.”

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Sam McBride in the News Letter adds a little bit more about the request to OFMDFM:

    Mr Dudgeon had requested details of the decision to exempt Roman Catholic schools from fair employment legislation but, despite repeated enquiries to OFMDFM over many months, there was no response.

    I find this puzzling. Is it not the case that all schools are exempt from the legislation?

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    I’m astonished to say the least that repeated Sinn Fein ministers including the deputy first minister has allowed this unacceptable situation to continue for so long. Why only a few weeks ago we had the senior and local Roman Catholic clerics and politicos bemoaning, and alleging that their parishioners and electorate were second class citizens.

    Yet here we have a theses same politicos and church leaders, quite clearly colluding in the very act they were accusing all in sundry of.

    And this was negotiated for during the peace process negations, the right to make non Roman Catholic teachers second class citizens. And they kept quiet about it.

    Rank hypocrisy I say.

    “A court case heard yesterday will mark the first shot in a battle challenging laws which allow teachers here to be appointed on the basis of their religion.
    Northern Ireland’s exemption from fair employment law is unique in Europe and is believed to have been pushed through as part of the peace process”.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/politics/challenge-to-laws-that-let-schools-hire-on-the-basis-of-religion-16235447.html#ixzz2BjjXDKM0

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin
  • Framer

    The News Letter inaccurately reported that the exemption only applies to Catholic schools however it is probably the case that does in effect.
    Non-Catholics simply don’t apply to Catholic schools as they need a certificate of religious education for primary school jobs, and have in all cases to “be committed to the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school.” As phrased, this probably rules them out. They then have to face an appointment panel entitled to discriminate in favour of Catholic candidates. Few if any make it through.
    In the case of non-Catholic schools, which are technically entitled to discriminate in favour of Protestant candidates, Catholics certainly apply in some numbers, as the chill factor diminishes, and they do get appointed, as posts above suggest.
    Why Northern Ireland schools, uniquely in Europe, need this ‘protection’ is the question that has now to be answered, nearly 40 years after the exception was written into our ‘fair’ employment law.

  • socaire

    I would have no problems with non-nationalist teachers in our schools as long as they didn’t peddle their non-nationalist ethos. I want my children educated in an Irish setting not in a British State school and I pay taxes too.

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    “I would have no problems with non-nationalist teachers in our schools as long as they didn’t peddle their non-nationalist ethos.”

    That’s perfectly understandable. Imagine the damage a Hun could do with his ” non-nationalist ethos” particularly in biology, chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, English language, art, music, technical drawing, French, German etc, etc and etc

  • socaire

    You’re not aware,then, that an ethos is supposed to permeate all aspects of the curriculum. Why do you think that Gaelic culture is discouraged – to put it kindly – from having a presence in the British state schools here?

  • GEF

    “Non-Catholics simply don’t apply to Catholic schools as they need a certificate of religious education for primary school jobs, and have in all cases to “be committed to the religious and pastoral development of a Catholic school.”

    Correct, similar to the Free State, after partition Protestants had to produce a leaving certificate to prove they studied the Irish language if they applied for employment in the Irish civil service, army, police, or other public jobs by the state.

  • Barnshee

    “In the case of non-Catholic schools, which are technically entitled to discriminate in favour of Protestant candidates, Catholics certainly apply in some numbers, as the chill factor diminishes, and they do get appointed, as posts above suggest.”

    And there we have it – exercise the equivalent discrimination in non Roman catholic schools and ensure that the protestant ethos etc is promoted-problem solved

  • Reader

    socaire: You’re not aware,then, that an ethos is supposed to permeate all aspects of the curriculum.
    But what makes you so sure that the ethos is meant to include a *political* element?
    And, if it is, how would a sector choose the political ethos – left/right, unionist/nationalist, liberal/conservative? And is there a role for the Governors, or is it a matter entirely for the CCMS, or the Education Minister?

  • http://heartsofoakandsteel.wordpress.com Mark McGregor

    Hello strangers. A fleeting revisit to this blog to remind you of some points I’ve previously covered but have been conveniently overlooked in this discussion.

    The sole time the European derivation on employment law in education has ever been used in Northern Ireland was when Laurelhill Community College and the SELB successfully raised the legislation to ensure they had no case to answer in a religious discrimination case launched by two catholic members of staff.

    I consider that the tribunal was correct in its view that the appellants’ complaints were excluded by the provisions of article 71. I would answer the question posed in the case stated by declaring that “the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to consider the claims of unlawful discrimination on the grounds of religious belief in view of Article 71 (1) (b) and (1A) of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998” and dismiss the appeal.”

    So for all the bluster about schools in the Catholic sector the sole school to utilise the legislation is a state school gaining approval for it’s right to discriminate against catholic staff.

    Somehow I doubt this is the campaign Mr Dudgeon has in mind but the case law is there for him to peruse along with those assuming this was some grand catholic conspiracy when in fact it is a discrimination only every used against Catholic teachers within the state sector.

    He may also wish to investigate the guaranteed roles within state schools for Protestant clergy via the TRC – something I have reviewed before.

    Sadly I don’t think that fits the game-plan though. And with that I’m off to do something more constructive with my time. Nite nite.