Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Sectarianism in any guise is plain wrong

At this time of the year as the marching season gets into full swing, we will see plenty of evidence of high-profile sectarian behaviour from demonstrators and counter-demonstrators.

Quite rightly those who indulge in such behaviour, from whichever side of the community they come, will be roundly condemned by the vast majority of the population.

But as a fair employment case reported in this newspaper today reveals, sectarianism, or discrimination on religious grounds, can take many forms. A teacher in a Co Londonderry school was chosen for redundancy because she was a Protestant. Changing demographics meant that the primary school had a majority of Catholic pupils, but the teaching staff was predominantly Protestant. The teacher in question was one of four who lost their jobs.

The Board of Governors decided that staffing should be in line with the ethos of the school and were fearful that children could be taken from the school dependent on which teachers were made redundant. Evidently the governors wanted to ensure that it would continue to attract Catholic children, but they went about it in an unlawful and untenable way. No matter the motive, the selection of someone for redundancy on the grounds of their religion cannot be accepted.

Such behaviour can only sour relationships between communities. It would be similarly reprehensible had the teacher been a Catholic chosen on the grounds of his or her religion. There are many people who have questions to ask of themselves following this event. Did any parents concur with the school's decision and what had the teaching profession or trade unions got to say about the treatment of one of their members?

The teacher has received some vindication in her fight to expose the wrongdoing - although the award of just over £8,000 hardly seems excessive - but her plight poses another question: how many other people have suffered injustice in silence?

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