Driver’s life wrecked by sectarian harassment

A Catholic bus driver who endured half a decade of sectarian harassment and intimidation at work said the ordeal has “ruined his life”.

Gerald Duffy was awarded just under eighty thousand pounds sterling by the North’s Fair Employment Tribunal after it was found he had suffered “a series of acts of discriminatory harassment over a lengthy period of time”.

Mr Duffy, a bus driver from Ballymena, was forced to leave his job at the town’s Ulsterbus depot and move house after a campaign of harassment, death threats, hoax phone calls and constant sectarian abuse left him severely depressed.

One of his co-workers also warned Mr Duffy not to buy a house in a predominantly Protestant estate, claiming he would “get burned out”.

The harassment, which began in 1995, also included hiding his keys and hitting his car with a bus.

In 1999 Ulsterbus cleaner Stephen Neilly told Mr Duffy, who was driving a bus full of loyalists through a nationalist protest, that they would get home safely by “putting [Mr Duffy] in front where he could wear his crucifix”.

The tribunal was scathing of Ulsterbus’s investigation into the case and criticised the company’s “dismissive and high-handed attitude”.

Mr Duffy said he was pleased the tribunal had acknowledged the abuse he had suffered.

“After five years of constant abuse I just couldn’t take it any more,” he said.

“I wasn’t interested in the financial compensation. I just wanted to prove I was telling the truth. I was afraid for my life and it destroyed me.

“I missed my children growing up because of what I was subjected to and I just want to get on with things now.”

Mr Duffy, who is now working in his wife’s business, said: “I was happy in my job in Ballymena and I was happy as a bus driver.

“All that has been ruined and now I need to rebuild my life. I think it should be a lesson to Ulsterbus and to other big companies in Northern Ireland in following procedure.”

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