Belfast Telegraph

No appeal over NI Water tribunal

A tribunal ruling that a Sinn Fein minister overlooked a Protestant for the chairmanship of Northern Ireland Water because of his religion will not be appealed against.

In June the Fair Employment Tribunal upheld Dr Alan Lennon's claim of religious discrimination against the department under former minister Conor Murphy. The panel found that evidence by Mr Murphy was "implausible and lacking credibility".

He has rejected the findings and accused his Ulster Unionist successor Danny Kennedy of political expediency.

Mr Kennedy said: "I have considered the merits of an appeal and I have come to the conclusion that it is not in the public interest. The prospect of success in any appeal is at best uncertain."

Mr Kennedy said: "Substantial public money has already been spent contesting this case and I have considered the additional significant costs of any appeal in making my decision. Both sides have been funded by public money and this would continue to be the case in further proceedings.

"Even if an appeal was successful this may result in further proceedings before a tribunal, incurring a greater cost to the public purse. Such costs are unquantifiable at this time. I acknowledge that the tribunal is more often that not in the best position to assess evidence and its value. Therefore I am not satisfied it is in the public interest to appeal this matter."

He said he did not intend to review any appointments made by his predecessor.

Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill had urged him to make an appeal, claiming the case had implications for all ministers making public appointments. "I have received firm advice from the Attorney General (John Larkin QC) that the case should be appealed," she said.

Mr Kennedy said the tribunal's ruling set no precedent on public appointments. "The tribunal's finding relates to a specific complaint brought by Dr Lennon and it is not my intention to review any of the appointments made under the tenure of my predecessor," he said.

He said issues arising from the finding would be discussed with the Equality Commission and the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Northern Ireland.


From Belfast Telegraph