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Compensation for man refused job due to political beliefs

A man has been awarded almost £11,000 in compensation after a community group failed to hire him because of his political beliefs.

Gary McClean had applied for the post of community development officer with the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership (WNP) in Londonderry. Despite scoring highest at interview, Mr McClean was not appointed.

A Fair Employment Tribunal found that, in failing to appoint Mr McClean, the charity unlawfully discriminated against him on grounds of his political opinion.

Mr McClean believes the control and funding of community activities should be a matter for the communities themselves and not for main political parties.

WNP re-ran the competition but Mr McClean did not apply and the job was given to another person.

The Derry community worker was supported by the Equality Commission in taking a case against WNP.

The Tribunal ruled: "This is a highly unusual case where the highest marked candidate in an interview process, who had exceeded the threshold marking, and who had been identified as the person to be appointed, was not appointed."

A score sheet considered by the Tribunal recorded the individual marks of each panel member and this showed that Mr McClean was scored highest by all three. In a line on the sheet which commenced "person appointed", the claimant's name was written and this was followed by the three signatures of the panel members.

The Tribunal found that "two members of the interview panel believed he should not have been appointed to the post. The chairman of the interview panel believed he should have been appointed".

The Tribunal also stated that, given the nature of the evidence, "it seems highly unlikely there can be any innocent explanation of the extraordinary result of this interview process. If there had been such an innocent explanation, it would have been put forward from the start and maintained consistently thereafter".

The Tribunal concluded that Mr McClean was "unlawfully discriminated against on grounds of his political opinion".

Following the decision, Mr McClean said: "I have always believed that the only reason I was considered unacceptable for this post was because my political stance did not fit in with the approach of Sinn Fein and the DUP towards community services and funding.

"The Tribunal decision has clearly shown that the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership Ltd cannot give any credible explanation for refusing to appoint me after I had come top in the interview and met the threshold they had set as the standard.

"I didn't take this case for financial reward, but because I hope that, by successfully challenging this process, I can shine a light on the need for greater transparency and accountability in appointments within the community sector."

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