Irish Republican News · September 14, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Discrimination allegations aired

A partner at a leading estate agency in Belfast joked about the breeding habits of Catholics and the size of their families, a Fair Employment tribunal has heard.

Jonathan Montague, a Catholic, who is alleging religious discrimination against former employers Templeton Robinson, claimed at the tribunal that staff frequently engaged in religious banter in the office.

“There were jokes about the size of Catholic families and the rate at which they bred.”

Mr Montague, giving evidence at the hearing, said staff believed him to be a Protestant because he had been a boarder at a leading grammar school, Methodist College.

“Any banter that contained any religious or political statement wasn’t held back, so I was under the impression they believed me to be Protestant as well and wouldn’t take offence.”

Comments about the size of Catholic families were made at the company’s head office on the Lisburn Road in Belfast by one of the partners, Mr Keith Mitchell, and in the staff room by a sales agent, Mr Patrick Palmer.

Mr Montague, who was employed as an accounts administrator, said his relationship with Mr Mitchell rapidly deteriorated after Mr Mitchell heard him discussing Gaelic football on the phone. “There was a blatant loss of respect. He was very dismissive. At times I didn’t exist to him.”

Asked why he thought Mr Mitchell’s attitude had changed, he said: “I quite clearly put it down to the fact that he had realised I was a Catholic.”

Mr Montague was accused on Monday of not doing his job properly by his former employers. He was being cross-examined at a reconvened Fair Employment hearing in Belfast. The hearing continues.

In related news, a County Down firefighter has taken a discrimination case against his employers. John Allen, from Warrenpoint, recently lost a judicial review against the Fire Authority’s decision to re-advertise a senior post he was offered.

Sinn Féin assembly member Caitriona Ruane expressed her concern.

“In a judgement issued at the end of June Mr Justice Weatherup dismissed mr Allen’s application for a judicial review but found there had been failings in how his concerns had been addressed,” she said.

“This case has wider implications. The Good Friday Agreement created a statutory obligation under, Section 75, on all designated public bodies to equality proof all policy,” Ms Ruane added.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News