A community worker who told an employment tribunal he was turned down for a job because of his opposition to the “carve up of influence between Sinn Féin and the DUP” says he feels vindicated after a panel found he was unlawfully discriminated against on political grounds.
Gary McClean took the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership Ltd. (WNP) to a Fair Employment Tribunal after being turned down for the position of community development officer in Currynierin, despite scoring higher than any other candidate.
“This is a highly unusual case where the highest marked candidate in an interview process, who had exceeded the threshold marking, and who had been identified as the person to be appointed, was not appointed,” remarked the tribunal decision, which was published this morning.
The tribunal heard how Mr. McClean had a socialist ‘world view’, was “opposed to Sinn Féin and indeed to the main political parties”, and believed “communities such as Currynierin should ‘think for themselves’.”
He was described by one witness as an “Eamonn McCann type of person” and another said he “had been associated with socialist views”.
The Tribunal concluded a WNP interview panel “knew of the claimant’s political opinion as defined above at the time of the decision not to appoint him as the highest marked candidate.”
It found he was unlawfully discriminated against due to his politics and awarded him £10,734 in compensation.
But Mr. McClean said it was never about the money.
“It was about justice, social justice for those areas in question,” said Mr. McClean.
“What we have now is a situation where, if a job becomes available again, it’s open and free for anyone to go for.”
Mr. McClean said he felt vindicated in his long-held view that he was discriminated against on political grounds, a view shared by the tribunal panel.
“Given that I’m somewhat prominent in this town in terms of my political activities, people know me, they know what my political point of view is and I reached the conclusion that I had been discriminated against on the grounds of my political belief.
“The fact that people do know my position on politics and my observations over fifteen, sixteen plus years of how things are developing within local communities,
“I would have been highly, highly vocal of those in terms of my disagreement with how things were being carried out and being vocal I was known to certain quarters and I believe that was the reason that I didn’t get that job.”
Dr. Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, said that the case was a reminder that fair employment legislation and good equality practices can protect people against discrimination on grounds of their political opinion.
“All appointments, including those in the community sector, must be made without reference to a person’s political opinions, or to any other protected ground,” he said.
He said procedures regaring recruitment must be transparent.
“It is also important that the procedures for such appointments meet basic standards of fairness and transparency and that they are accountable to scrutiny,” he added.