Speaking of [the] Equality [Commission]

As the BBC report, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, MP, has announced changes in personnel at the Equality Commission. Out go Tony Carlin, Una Gillespie, Thomas McGrath and Paul Yam. In come former BBC Northern Ireland controller Anna Carragher, human resources consultant Lyn McBriar, academic and former UUP MLA Dermot Nesbitt and retired policeman Peter Sheridan. Is the NI First Minister now less “appalled”?
From the NIO statement

2. Brief summary of appointees’ careers:

Anna Carragher has had a successful media career since 1970, most recently Head of Programmes for BBC Northern Ireland and BBC Northern Ireland Controller until 2006. She is the current Chair of the Grand Opera House, Belfast and a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Lyn McBriar is a self-employed Human Resources consultant, specialising in leadership, development and organisational change. She was formerly Regional Head of Human Resources (Northern Ireland and Isle of Man) with Marks & Spencer, where she led the human resources function during a period of significant corporate growth. She has held a variety of managerial positions in consultancy and in the private sector.

Dermot Nesbitt retired from active politics in March 2007, returned to academia and is currently a senior lecturer at Queen’s UniversityManagementSchool. He held Ministerial office in the Northern Ireland Executive until its suspension in 2002, and has held public positions including Chairman of both the South Eastern Education & Library Board and the Board of Governors of Stranmillis University College. He is a former member of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and the European Committee of the Regions.

Peter Sheridan has been the Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland since Sept 2008. He is a former Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI (now retired) and former Chairman of the Police Benevolent Fund.

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  • Pete, perhaps he should have sacked them all and brought in a new team, a team that would permit ECNI to lead by example.

    Bob Collins arrived in 2006 pledging to be ‘completely open and objective’. Perhaps he should have pledged to reduce the imbalance within ECNI.

    Here are some statistics which show the P/C balance in new appointments is even worse that that for the whole organisation:


    139 staff P 40.2%/C 59.8%
    New staff P 30.8%/C 69.2%


    139 staff P 35.8%/C 64.2%
    New staff P 26.7%/C 73.3%

  • Mark McGreg


    How would he have done that? Only two areas are excluded from appointing applicants on ability and allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion and have a European derogation to this effect – the PSNI and the school sector in the north (afaik, the only successful defence of permitted religious discrimination in the workplace ever came from a Lisburn school).

    If the prods aren’t applying or meeting selection criteria there isn’t much the EC or anyone else can do about it.

    Unless someone is alleging illegal discrimination on their part? And the only bias I’ve seen to date is in the selection of the top table to meet the sectarian demands of politicians.

  • alan56

    Fair point. Mind you it was this sort of argument that Gregory Campbell used to make when challenged about the imbalance of prods in the workforce back in the 80s!

  • Mark, I can’t deal with your ‘if’ as there are no relevant statistics to comment on. The powers that be were able to deal with policing inequality so they should be able to sort out the ECNI.

  • Tam

    If catholics don’t apply for police jobs, as was the case in the past (and no prosecutions against the police for religious bias in recruitment in that time) yet 50/50 recruitment is enforced, and not even 50% prods its 50% catholics and 50% prods and others.

    Reasoning behind low catholic numbers in police given as police seen as cold house for catholics.

    Fast forward to today and the (no) Equality Commission is equally viewed as a cold house for prods yet is allowed to continue as an increasingly non-prod zone because prods “simply don’t want to apply”.

    So that’s alright then. No investigation, no review of the commission and certainly no proactive steps to make the commission more attractive to prod applicants.

    It’s business as usual. After all it’s only prods at the end of the day.

  • DC

    Mark, it’s a nonsense, how many Prods with admin experience are looking for work via recruitment agencies getting min wage salary?

    You telling me seriously that the Eq Com couldn’t employ admin staff and promote them up through to the management / policy ranks where, as you rightly say, they don’t have the experience perhaps it is based on history and lack of equality experience perhaps due to community background?

    It’s called fast tracking the civil service do it and so I imagine could the commission.

    The Chief Executive gets an OBE or CBE or whatever yet fails to recruit as they expect others to do. I am baffled, completely baffled by it all.

  • DC

    Mind you…they – the powers that be – did ennoble Sir Fred Goodwin, so I suppose the ec chief executive is more deserving than him, but that’s not saying much.

  • One of the new commissioners is a former senior BBC staffer.

    Here are the corresponding statistics for the BBC


    864 staff P 54.4%/C 45.6%
    98 new st P 40.2%/C 59.8%


    773 staff P 54.4%/C 45.6%
    79 new st P 44.4%/C 55.6%

    The BBC has been downsized and the new intake has been apparently skewed to maintain the overall balance. Now why didn’t ECNI think of that down through the years? Also, why has there been a need to skew the intake?

  • Mark McGreg

    Alan, Nevin,

    I’m pointing out this particular workplace isn’t allowed by law to implement discriminatory recruitment practices. It has to accept those that apply on the basis of ‘best person for the job’.

    However, it seems that some people want to point out the imbalance in this organisation, rage against corrective measures in one sector, the RUC/PSNI, to address religious imbalance and at the same time completely ignore the employment differential across the wider workforce.

    It’s ‘equality’ but only when it suits prods being raised, again.

  • DC

    You’d do well in the Eq Com Mark, ever thought of applying?

  • Driftwood

    Anyone know the breakdown of the religion of the Army garrison here? And why are Atheists excluded from all surveys?

  • Mark, don’t you appreciate the irony/farce of inequality in the Equality Commission? I wonder how it fairs on the gender and other fronts …

  • Pete Baker

    Anyone care to comment on the actual topic?

    i.e. the appointees to the Commission.

  • DC

    Pete, how does no not really grab you?

  • “Lyn McBriar is a self-employed Human Resources consultant, specialising in leadership, development and organisational change.”

    Perhaps she could apply her expertise to the, er, ECNI 🙂

  • “Peter Sheridan has been the Chief Executive of Co-operation Ireland”

    Another organisation in need of organisational change. Co-operation UK & Ireland would better reflect the 1998 Agreement.

  • DC

    “Lyn McBriar is a self-employed Human Resources consultant”

    We’ll have to keep an eye on her expenses form.

  • igor

    “It’s ‘equality’ but only when it suits prods being raised, again.”

    No but the EC and a number of quangos seems designed mainly to give employment to middle class catholics and their children. Prods not wanted. A 25% recruitment level would normally trigger am Equality Commission investigation and mandatory action plan.

    Is there one? No – in fact its getting worse

  • fin

    I’m guessing that a positive discrimination policy in the ECNI would have to be dependent on the unionist parties publically announcing their support for it (similar to SF and the PSNI) and calling on Protestants to apply for jobs there.

  • igor

    They cannot positively discriminate

    They can however try to make working there attractive to Prods. At the moment it doesn’t seem to be. Its perceived as ‘Catholic only’ and that trend is accelerating

    So what are they doing about it?

    Robinson was (rightly in my view) expressing Unionist concerns. They need to engage an encourage but that doesn’t seem on the Agenda. Indeed, not much does seem to be on the Agenda. The whole Agency’s profile is subterranean

  • fin

    Why can there not be positive discrimination in the ECNI?

    “So what are they doing about it?”
    Surely Peter and Reggie have their part to play in publically supporting the body and calling on Protestants to join.

    There seems to be a little bit of revision going on regarding nationalists joining the PSNI.

    Patten was produced and Patten was hollowed out, every picture of the queen taken down was a battle with the DUP and UUP, however nationalists joined up, nationalist parties had to publically declare their support for policing.

    Possibly time for Peter to suck his lip up and practice what he has previously preached.

  • “And why are Atheists excluded from all surveys?”

    Driftwood, Catholic, by far the largest religious denomination in Northern Ireland, is the only specific grouping that gets a mention. Atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Free Presbyterians, Methodists et al don’t count.

  • fin

    “And why are Atheists excluded from all surveys?”

    more importantly they’re excluded from the united kingdom, god Save The Queen, and all that, head of state is head of the Church etc. shocking

    Nevin are the Wee Frees, Methodists etc not all covered by the term Protestants, just how many sects are there and is it possible to recognise them all individually

  • Mike

    “more importantly they’re excluded from the united kingdom”

    Atheists are excluded from the United Kingdom? Where are they sent?

  • igor


    Yes and isnt it great to see the Equality Commission and Human Rights Commisison that, in performance terms, each serve one useful purpose – they make PSNI look effective

  • barnshee

    seems straightforward

    50/50 recruitment until the balancearrives

  • Try this

    Or in a fierce downturn, such as the one across Britain and Ireland, a 70:30 redundancy selection and whittle it down to proper workforce proportionality.

  • try that

    We have a Republican Party committed to uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter which does not have 1 protestant MLA.

    We have a so-called Democratic Socialist party which decries the Republican Party as sectarianism – and does not have one protestant MLA.

    And both these anti-sectarian parties suppport educational apartheid (in the interests of equality) and an equality commission that has a 75%/25% catholic/prod recruitment ratio in a Greater Belfast catchment area which is almost the opposite.


    How about 50/50 recruitment to our anti-sectarian parties. That might help.