Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Charity forced to reinstate dissident republican gunman despite violent past

Sean O'Reilly.
Sean O'Reilly.

By Sunday Life reporter

A dissident republican gunman is back working for a charity after winning an employment tribunal against his dismissal.

ONH leader Sean O'Reilly was represented in the hearing by Ciaran 'Pip' Cunningham, who was previously jailed for operating a Real IRA hospital spying network and is now a member of the IRSP, the INLA's political wing. The 43-year-old works for Brentnall Legal Ltd, a firm run by former PSNI officer turned solicitor Michael Brentnall.

The tribunal heard how O'Reilly had secured a job as a social care worker with a local charity, only to be sacked when the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) raised concerns about his fitness to practise.

This was based on the leading dissident's conviction and 30-month jail sentence for involvement in a botched 2010 kneecapping of a west Belfast teen. O'Reilly pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm and attempted wounding and served his sentence on the republican wing of Maghaberry Prison.

After being freed, the 43-year-old assumed control of violent dissident gang ONH in Belfast, with offices he used in the north and west of the city twice raided by anti-terror cops.

The NISCC considered O'Reilly not a fit person to be employed by a charity. However, the decision to dismiss him was overturned by a recent tribunal ruling that he was fit to practise.

Mr Cunningham argued that, under the terms of the 2015 Stormont House Agreement, public bodies had a duty to help people with politics-related offences benefit from a process of transition.

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He said this meant allowing former paramilitary prisoners to access employment without negative reference to their convictions.

The tribunal decision to reinstate O'Reilly could have massive consequences for future employment disputes involving people with terror convictions.

Mr Cunningham referenced this possibility, telling a local newspaper: "Sean's tribunal victory has set a positive benchmark which the entire ex-prisoner community can now utilise as a tool to empower themselves when it comes to facing unnecessary barriers to employment."

Ciaran 'Pip' Cunningham
Ciaran 'Pip' Cunningham

Several high-profile convicted paramilitaries currently work for charities.

These include UVF bomber and multiple killer Garnet Busby and ex-IRA man turned Sinn Fein politician Paul Butler, who was jailed for shooting a policeman.

Current laws allow employers to reject job candidates who were involved in Troubles-related violence.

These convictions also prevent them getting home insurance and in some cases mortgages.

Paramilitaries who have been in prison often have lower State pensions because the time they spent in jail means they made fewer national insurance contributions.

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