Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Protestant job bias victim still waiting for NI Water payout

A Protestant man overlooked for a top job with Northern Ireland Water because of his religion was yesterday told he would have to wait at least another fortnight before compensation is determined.

Alan Lennon could receive a substantial sum after he won his case for religious discrimination against the Department of Regional Development in June.

However, lawyers acting for the department have questioned the validity of the tribunal findings because a member of the panel was 70 and was not eligible to hear evidence at the time the decision was presented.

Barrister Noelle McGrenera said: "The department requests from the tribunal clarification that the ruling of June 19 remains valid."

The department's concerns were raised as legal representatives gathered at Killymeal House in Belfast's gas works to thrash out details of the financial remedy.

Tribunal chairman Samuel Crothers said that, although the findings were not made public until June, the unanimous verdict was made in May, before the panel member turned 70.

"By May 21 we would have been in a position to give our decision," Mr Crothers said.

The employment tribunal found that former Sinn Fein minister Conor Murphy breached a code of practice when he appointed Sean Hogan to the position as chairman of NI Water in March last year. Mr Hogan was the only Catholic applicant for the job. Four others, all Protestants, were turned down.

Mr Murphy has consistently denied any allegations of discrimination.

During today's hearing, Tony McGleenan QC, representing Dr Lennon, argued that the original decision was properly constituted and said the issue could be challenged in another court.

Dr McGleenan said: "The proper approach is to consider that the decision is presumptively valid. If any party take issue with that they can do so. We cannot stop them.

"But as a matter of principle the validity of the decision is plain at its face."

The hearing was adjourned at the request of DRD lawyers. Legal representatives are to indicate a way forward by November 21.

In July the current Ulster Unionist Roads Minister Danny Kennedy said his department would not appeal against the decision because of cost implications for the public purse.

Outside the tribunal Dr Lennon declined to comment.