Belfast Telegraph

Degrading sectarian abuse of Ulster Hospital nurse lasted three years

By Chris Kilpatrick

He had dedicated himself to helping others as a nurse at one of Northern Ireland's best-known hospitals.

But while tending to patients in need at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, Shane O'Hare was found to have been subjected to a vile and degrading campaign of sectarian abuse.

The humiliating harassment included the offering of "Drumcree chicken" and references to loyalist flag protests and the Twelfth.

Mr O'Hare took the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust to a tribunal having endured three years of abuse.

Yesterday it emerged the tribunal had ruled in favour of Mr O'Hare, ordering the trust to pay him £9,900 in damages. Mr O'Hare moved to the Dundonald Hospital from Belfast City having been promoted to a band six specialist nurse within the critical care outreach team. He took up the role in 2010.

The team he was working within delivers a specialised highly-skilled service, operating as a bridge between the intensive care wards and regular wards.

Mr O'Hare was perceived to be from a Catholic background, while other members of the team were perceived to be from a Protestant background, the tribunal heard.

The tribunal said it found the evidence of Mr O'Hare's line manager to be "contradictory".

One of the small team's other nurses, a witness for the line manager, was found to have given "unsatisfactory" evidence.

In contrast the tribunal found: "We found the evidence of the claimant to be, in the main, consistent and credible."

On July 13, 2011 Mr O'Hare was with colleagues. Members of staff had brought in their own food.

He was offered a dish which was called "Drumcree chicken" by a member of staff who also stated "Micks at one end, oranges in the other."

He also alleged he had witnessed some bunting and flags in a corridor in the same month.

The explanation given for the Drumcree chicken was that the member of staff who made the dish was from Drumcree.

The "Micks and oranges" comment was never investigated internally because the name of the member of staff was not known until Mr O'Hare named them in his statement for the tribunal proceedings.

The tribunal heard from Mr O'Hare, his line manager, their line manager, two of Mr O'Hare's colleagues, and senior management who handled an internal probe into the complaints. In early July 2012 Mr O'Hare requested a week's leave in July. A colleague remarked: "Why would you want the Twelfth off?"

The claimant's complaint was this was said in front of his line manager who said nothing. He claimed that he felt harassed and bullied. The pattern of discrimination by the line manager comprised 11 events which took place over a period of several years, the tribunal said.

Mr O'Hare was off sick with stress for a number of months and attributed his stress to his problems with his line manager.

The tribunal subsequently ruled: "We regard all three incidents as amounting to harassment of the claimant on grounds of his religion.

"We find the explanation for the name of chicken dish to be disingenuous to say the least as it ought to have been clear that the naming of a dish in that way, on that day, to a Roman Catholic, clearly had the capacity to cause offence. The comment made and the presence of bunting in the workplace clearly had the capacity to cause offence."

The tribunal found that the bunting in the corridor issue appeared not to have been investigated.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph