“If the party was serious about fairness and equality…”

In today’s Irish News Brian Feeney addresses the Fair Employment Tribunal’s finding that, as Northern Ireland Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, MP, MLA, discriminated against a candidate for the post of chairman of NI Water on religious grounds. 

That he had appointed Sean Hogan to the post “because he was not from a Protestant background and because he was known to the Minister and his ministerial colleagues”. 

That he had added three factors to the job specification criteria “to secure the appointment of Sean Hogan”, in breach of the code of practice for ministerial appointments.

And that during his time in office “there was a significant disparity” between the success rates of Protestant and Catholic applicants and “that a Catholic applicant was at least twice as likely to be appointed than a Protestant applicant”.

From the Fair Employment Tribunal’s findings [1.93mb PDF file]

“Furthermore, figures released in relation to 2010/2011 show that of 57 Protestant applications for public appointment, three were appointed.  In the same period nine out of 31 Catholic applicants were appointed.”


“Statistics for other Government Departments show a ratio at or close to 1:1.  The Tribunal is satisfied that there was a material bias against the appointment of candidates from a Protestant background within DRD.”

From the Irish News op-ed

This is unforgiveable, shameful stuff worthy of the record of any unionist ministry pre-1972.  Murphy invoked the support of Felicity Huston who audited the appointment only for her to cut the feet from under him saying that not all the papers had been made available to her.  The tribunal also pointed out that she had asked for the code of practice to be amended once she caught a whiff of what was emanating from Murphy’s department.

Not able to produce a single fact to support his ‘refutation’, Murphy then had the cheek to ask the DRD to appeal.  Only someone secure in the knowledge it won’t cost him a penny would ask for an appeal.  On what grounds?  He doesn’t say.  We’re told Murphy’s behaviour will cost you well over a quarter of a million in compensation and costs.  He walks away scot-free, careless of the damage he has inflicted on any notion of fairness and equality unionists might receive from nationalists in power.

And from Sinn Féin not a word of condemnation.  In fact Gerry Adams supports Murphy despite the slam-dunk evidence against him.  If the party was serious about fairness and equality this odious episode is a prime case where it should make an example of Murphy.  He should be forced to apologise for bringing his office and department into disrepute.  Silence from Sinn Féin in the face of the irrefutable facts, irrefutable in its proper sense, means it condones discrimination against Protestants.

Ultimately he should be kicked out of his Newry and armagh seat.  We all know what will happen of course.  Instead of demonstrating its complete disapproval, Sinn Féin will nominate him in 2015 and he’ll be re-elected with a bigger majority.  Maybe he thinks in time that it will all blow over.  It won’t.