“The tribunal concludes that it could reasonably infer unlawful political discrimination”

The Irish News reports  that former Sinn Féin MLA Phil Flanagan has won a fair employment case against Citizens Advice Armagh and has been awarded £5,500.

It arose in relation to an application Mr Flanagan made for the role of manager at the Citizens Advice Armagh.

The Irish News states that :

“A female candidate was appointed to the role, even though she had failed to meet the initial shortlisting criteria.

“Mr Flanagan launched a case against the charity, claiming he had been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of his political beliefs.”

In its conclusion to a lengthy 41 page report the Tribunal said :

“The tribunal concludes that it could reasonably infer unlawful political discrimination on the ground of the claimant’s nationalist/republican opinion. 

“This is not a case of a small charitable organisation making a mess of an appointments process and owing up to procedural errors.  The respondent actively lied about its position and about why the claimant had not been appointed. 

“The argument that this had simply been a benign and amateurish exercise was only advanced in final submissions and not at any stage before that point.

“The burden of proof has passed to the respondent.  If it is to discharge that burden of proof, it must do so by providing an adequate explanation which is supported by cogent evidence.

“This might have been an easier task for the respondent if it had put forward a consistent and believable explanation from the start of the process.  

“In final submissions, the respondent invited the tribunal conclude that it had made a mess of the interview process; it had all been an innocent and well-meaning exercise which had gone horribly wrong.  That explanation is simply not credible.”

“The panel marking had been clear.  The interview matrix document had been clear.  The claimant had received the highest marks and should have been appointed.”

The decision in this case is particularly damaging as Citizens Advice provides advice to members of the public in relation to both employment and discrimination.

At the time of writing though there does not appear to have been any statement in response to the case or public comment from Citizens Advice.