The Irish Catholic identity of a BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter was the “elephant in the room” in discussions with senior colleagues, an industrial tribunal was told.
Co Tyrone man Jerome Quinn claims he was unfairly dismissed by BBC Northern Ireland and discriminated against because he was Irish and Catholic.
He was sacked by the BBC — where he had been the self-styled face of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) — in March last year after he was found to be posting online comments criticising the broadcaster’s coverage of Gaelic games.
The journalist claims coverage of Gaelic games by BBC Northern Ireland and Radio Ulster had been scaled back and his role diminished when a new head of sport, Shane Glynn, took over around 2005.
The effect of the scaling-back was insulting to people “in the same group” as him in the sports department, Mr Quinn said.
The tribunal heard that in 2007 and 2008 Mr Quinn had informal meetings with four senior colleagues to discuss his concerns about his role.
But under cross-examination by Tariq Sadiq, acting for the BBC on the third day of the industrial tribunal yesterday, Mr Quinn said that he did not raise allegations of discrimination in those meetings.
He said: “To me it was the elephant in the room.
“It was the undercurrent, but to me it was obviously the area we were looking at, but I didn’t want to mention it.
“I thought if I mentioned that, it would have gotten round the building.
“It would have been even more detrimental.”
As part of the claim process Mr Quinn lodged questionnaires at the BBC but Mr Sadiq said the allegations in the questionnaire were personal and did not back up a claim of indirect discrimination. The barrister said: “It’s all about me, me, me, isn’t it, Mr Quinn? You refer to ‘me’ on three occasions.
“A lot of it is about me but the answers I was seeking would have been relevant to Irish Catholics,” Mr Quinn said.
In his witness statement, Mr Quinn said: “I appealed to Mr Glynn to rethink his constant downplaying of GAA, which was insulting as well as divisive.
“There was the unhappiness of the GAA at how (news programme) Newsline was enjoying putting the boot into the GAA whenever there was a negative GAA story.
“They cut back their Sunday radio coverage... the institution of Sunday Sports Sound was wiped from the airwaves.”
The tribunal is expected to last three weeks.