“motivated by religious belief..”

RTÉ report on a High Court challenge taken by three senior NI civil servants against the Assembly Commission which began today – the minutes of the Commission meeting on Jan 17th note staff concerns about possible changes to their secondment arrangements. According to the RTÉ report, lawyers for the three Catholic senior civil servants “claim[ed] a cross-party body of Stormont MLA’s, chaired by the DUP, treated them differently to a senior Protestant colleague” when they were “sent back to their original departments with salary losses of up to £14,000” following a review of the Northern Ireland Assembly Secretariat in 2007 [pdf file]. But the focus of the reported counter-argument by a lawyer for the Assembly is worth careful consideration

A lawyer for the Assembly rejected the claims of religious discrimination, saying both Sinn Féin and the SDLP had sat on the body which had removed the civil servants.

He said it was not an arguable case that nationalists and republicans had participated in a decision making process motivated by religious belief.

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  • The__Raven

    Perhaps it’s not religious discrimination, but political discrimination.

    But then the Equality Commission would have been all over it as a test case.

    Wouldn’t they….?

  • Rapunsel

    Assembly staffing and recruitment processes are in a mess. I applied for a post at the beginning of June last year. Unbelievably they have not even completed the short listing yet and have been I understand thrown into disarray by the report referenced.

  • Kathy C

    Posted by Kathy C

    Sinn Fein did not speak out for the 3 and participated in what became of them…Sinn fein does not stand up for Catholics on the whole because they are busy lately trying to make friends with the DUP protestants. Sinn Fein has lost almost all of it’s crediblity

  • Danny O’Connor

    Iam a former MLA and I only know 1 of these three individuals, but I have to say that as clerk to the assembly Joe Reynolds was an outstanding public servant.The assembly will be a worse place without his expertise.

  • Injured Striker

    Hmm, could there be a connection with this story breaking last year.


    The Assembly football team is going to be very depleted this year.

  • SetantaBhoy

    I am aware of some of the details behind this and can add to Danny O’Connors statement that all three are excellant Public servants. Four people lost their posts as a result of the enquiry. One from one community got rewarded with an enhanced Pension, the three from another community had their salaries reduced. Fair?

  • Rubicon

    SenantaBoy – I’ll assume you read the report and its conclusions. It’s a mystery to me how you can then conclude, “all three are excellent public servants”.

    On a 5 point scale moving from “strong”, “well-placed”, “development area”, “urgent development area” to “serious concern” – any management team should worry when getting scores in the “development area”. Now – right enough – this team was assessed across 10 areas of business performance and only 2 were classed as a “development area” – but 4 were classed as “urgent development area” and another 4 as “serious concern”. No element of this team’s performance was assessed as “well-placed” or “strong”.

    In this context I find your conclusion that “all three are excellent public servants” incongruous. Is the report a protestant conspiracy? Is that why you say “three” (all RC) and not 4 (including the protestant) were “excellent public servants”?

    If dismissing the management board is discrimination against the RC community –was it discrimination when they were appointed?

    There’s a tendency in .NI to see all thing as P V’s RC since it’s easier than examine the truth.

    The report is damning and the actions from it do give concern. Many questions follow – among them:

    Did the chair of the management board (the P) decide to jump (retire) before being pushed?
    Did the other members have the same info and option – but decide to stay?
    Were all members equally to blame?
    Did all members of the board have decision making powers they were held accountable for?
    Did the board have collective decision making powers that they were collectively held accountable for?

    Most importantly – to me – is the last question. Is it fair to hold a collective responsible for a collective failure? Even if it is “fair” – is it legal?

    The reports on the RC/P claim seems a cheap way of ignoring and reducing all NI problems to the same nonsense. Addressing incompetence in the delivery of public services is a matter of general public concern and is often put forward as an issue in the media.

    That the Assembly, the heart of NI’s democracy, has been the first to act in addressing incompetence should be a sign of progress – and a very positive sign. Seeing it as a green/orange issue is a license for continued incompetence – no group should be protected from being accountable for its decisions because of its religious composition. No more than a successful management group should be applauded because of its religious composition.

    BUT – are all members equally responsible? In the private sector failing management boards are often given the boot on foot of a takeover.

    There was clearly much very seriously wrong in the Assembly. Holding all the management group responsible offends general principles of due process. In law, groups are rarely ascribed rights but individuals are. In employment law, employee responsibilities hinge on the individual.

    However, there is no automatic protection in law that protects employees from unfairness. “Unfair dismissal” has very defined limits. You can’t be dismissed for being a woman/man or Catholic/Protestant – those protections exist.

    There are very good reasons for not protecting people from dismissal BECAUSE they are a Protestant or Catholic.

    Rather than pander to what NI finds all too easy to do – to see all matters as green/orange – there is a more serious question. Is it reasonable to hold public sector management boards to be collectively responsible for the decisions they make (or fail to make)? Would such a paradigm improve the delivery of public services?