£150k payout for NI Water discrimination

Published Thursday, 22 November 2012
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A man who was found to have been subjected to religious discrimination by the Department of Regional Development when he applied for the position of chairperson at NI Water has accepted £150,000 in compensation.

£150k payout for NI Water discrimination
Dr Alan Lennon, a Protestant, was interviewed for the post. (© Equality Commission.)

Earlier this year an employment tribunal ruled that Dr Alan Lennon, a Protestant, had been the subject of unlawful discrimination on grounds of religious belief when he was not selected to the post, following the appointment process.

He subsequently brought the case against the DRD. The parties have now agreed compensation in the sum of £150,000 which the department will pay to Dr Lennon.

"I am pleased that this case has finally been resolved," said Dr Lennon.

"I took the case primarily to challenge what I believe to be serious flaws in the public appointments system and the level of compensation agreed marks the seriousness of what occurred.

"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."

When the tribunal ruling was made, then minister Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin refuted any allegation of discrimination against Dr Lennon on religious grounds.

In a statement on Wednesday the party told UTV: "It is our firm view that the Department of Regional Development should have appealed this case in line with the advice that was received.

"Why this was not appealed is a question that the Minister needs to answer."

Dr Lennon was assisted in his case by the Equality Commission.

Evelyn Collins of the 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.

"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."

Current minister, Danny Kennedy of the UUP, said his department would not appeal against the tribunal's decision because of cost implications for the public purse.

Mr Kennedy said: "This case arose from a public appointment by my predecessor. Liability was established by the tribunal some months ago.

"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."

© UTV News
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