Belfast Telegraph

I’m relieved and darn tired: man discriminated against by minister awarded £150,000 after long battle

By Chris Kilpatrick

A job applicant awarded £150,000 compensation after he was discriminated against when he applied for a top post in |Northern Ireland Water said the long-running case had put “tremendous strain” on him and his family.

Dr Alan Lennon OBE was granted the payout after an industrial tribunal ruled he was turned down for the post of chairman of NI Water because of his religion.

In June, the tribunal ruled Dr Lennon had been discriminated against because he was a Protestant.

It also found that former Sinn Fein minister Conor Murphy breached a code of practice when he appointed Sean Hogan to the position in March last year.

Mr Murphy denies any allegations of discrimination.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph following yesterday’s announcement of the compensation package, Dr Lennon said he was “darn tired” following the case.

“First of all I’m massively relieved this process has ended,” he said. “This has been running for 20 months and has been a tremendous strain on me and my family.

“Last June when I won the case I was ready and willing to sit down and agree compensation then and there.

“I’m relieved and pretty darn tired.

“It’s also obviously a very, very important day for Northern Ireland in this area of legislation.”

Asked if he was satisfied with the payout he replied: “Absolutely. I think it is a significant amount which reflects the seriousness of the finding of the tribunal.”

He said he hoped it would pave the way for a review of the process of public appointments in Northern Ireland. “I brought about this claim because I believed I needed to shine some light in a dark place in public appointments,” he said.

“The purpose of doing this was to find out what was going on, expose it to public scrutiny and hopefully use that as a lever for change. The first two are of no value unless this leads to change.

“I note that commitments have been made by the department to review these processes and it is vital for public confidence in government in Northern Ireland that this case acts as a springboard for change. I hope that this will result in a more transparent and equitable public appointments process.”

Dr Lennon said in the wake of the ruling it was time for “everybody to step up to the plate” in respect to a review of the public appointment process in Northern Ireland.

Evelyn Collins CBE, chief executive of the Equality Commission, said: “The Commission supported this case to establish that public appointments, including those which involve the exercise of a minister’s discretion, are fully within the protection of anti-discrimination legislation.

‘I believed I needed to shine some light in a dark place in public appointments’

“If unlawful discrimination occurs it is important that there is a sufficient degree of transparency and accountability in the appointments process to enable it to be challenged, and an effective remedy for the person discriminated against is an essential part of that.

“The Commission was pleased to note the commitment made to the Fair Employment Tribunal that DRD would look at issues arising out of the tribunal hearing and discuss these with the Commission and the Commissioner for Public Appointments. We look forward to working together with all bodies involved to ensure the recruitment process for public appointments is fair to all applicants.”

The current Regional Development Minister, the UUP’s Danny Kennedy, said: “At all stages I have taken into account the potential cost to the public purse.

“This has been no different in dealing with matters in relation to compensation. I will ensure that, going forward, my department discusses the issues arising out of this case with the Equality Commission and the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Northern Ireland.”

Belfast Telegraph


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