Republican News · Thursday 20 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Sectarian bank coughs up

Two County Tyrone women who were subjected to a campaign of sectarian abuse while employed by the Ulster Bank have received substantial but undisclosed damages in an out of court settlement.

The bank, which had already admitted liability, had been contesting the scale of the award at a hearing which began at a Fair Employment Tribunal in Belfast on Monday 17 April. The women, Claire Smithson, 31, and Evelyn McCullagh, 40, were seeking the highest compensation awards (235,000 each) ever sought in a discrimination case following a systematic campaign of harassment at the bank's Omagh branch.

The women, represented by barrister Barry McDonald, said they received unfavourable treatment, harassment, intimidation and unjust criticism over a prolonged period before they left the company in 1997. The bank accepted that the women were severely harassed and further accepted that they made fruitless complaints to the Ulster Bank head office in Belfast.

The campaign got worse after the Catholic women complained to the bank's personnel department and intensified during the Drumcree stand off in 1996. Both suffered emotional breakdowns.

According to their solicitor, Rosemary Connolly, ``lights were turned off when they were still at work, doors were closed on them, computers were switched off while they were working on them and conversation dried up when they joined the company of others''.

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