Belfast Telegraph

State Papers revealed: NIO under fire for giving only 'safe Catholics' top public jobs

By Rebecca Black

The former deputy leader of the SDLP once accused the NIO of selecting only "safe Catholics" for public appointments - and singled out previous Alliance Party chief Sir Oliver Napier as an example.

In newly released State papers, it has emerged how, during a tense meeting at Stormont, Brid Rodgers told officials that the nationalist community was not fairly represented on public bodies.

The meeting between Mrs Rodgers and party colleagues Brian Feeney and Gerry Cosgrave and officials took place on December 20, 1988.

Minutes of the meeting recorded by the NIO say that it was held at Mrs Rodgers' request over public appointments.

"Mrs Rodgers acknowledged that she had been the main source of the names put forward, in many cases after a great deal of persuading of those concerned - some of whom had been reluctant to become involved with 'The Establishment'," it was recorded.

An official named in the minutes as Mr Spence responded to Mrs Rodgers by saying of the 261 people holding category A appointments at that time, 52% are members of the majority, 32% of the minority and 16% unknown.

However, Mrs Rodgers was not convinced and "dismissed these figures as irrelevant", the note recorded.

"They had been chosen because they were safe Catholics and did not in fact represent any strand of nationalist opinion.

"She repeated her party's intense disappointment at the lack of success in securing appointments for the many well documented names which had been put forward.

"Mrs Rodgers said Sir Oliver Napier 'certainly did not represent the nationalist community'."

The public bodies being referred to included the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR), Fair Employment Agency, Equal Opportunities Commission and the Independent Commission for Police Complaints (ICPC).

Sir Oliver was the chair of SACHR.

The body's role was to advise the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of the law in preventing discrimination on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.

Born in Belfast, Sir Oliver was a founder member and former leader of the Alliance Party.

He died in 2011.

Belfast Telegraph

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