Protestant and male cohort on quango grows

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The under-representation of Protestants and men on the staff of the Equality Commission has improved slightly over the past two years.

According to the First and Deputy First Minister an “affirmative action” programme undertaken by the Commission has improved the balance slightly.

“Over the past two years there has been an improvement in the balance of the Commission’s composition from 33.9 per cent from the Protestant community in January 2014 to 38.5 per cent currently,” the Ministers stated.

“The male composition has improved from 34.6 per cent to 36.1 per cent over the same period,” they added.

The Ministers were pressed on the matter by Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) MLA Jim Allister.

They explained that the Commission - a non departmental public body established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 - whilst bound by equality legislation, has taken steps to try to encourage more Protestants and men to apply for posts.

“Like all employers, the Equality Commission is bound to make appointments only on merit and in compliance with equality laws,” the Ministers stated.

“However, we are aware that the Commission has had an affirmative action programme in place. Actions taken under this have included welcoming statements to under-represented groups in recruitment advertising, targeted advertising, engagement and the promotion of the Commission as an employer open to all communities,” they said.

Mr Allister has been a vocal critic of the Equality Commission.

Earlier this year his proposal to reduce its budget by £500,000 was shot down by nationalists at the Assembly.

The Commission delivers a range of work governed by its statutory remit, which arose out of the Belfast Agreement.

According to the Commission: “We believe we are making a difference to people’s lives in Northern Ireland, by improving equality of opportunity for everyone and in doing so contributing to the creation and maintenance of a more equal society.”