Prisoners’ discrimination case for House of Lords
Prisoners’ discrimination case for House of Lords

Two former IRA PoWs who were denied jobs with a top charity have taken their case to Britain’s House of Lords.

In 2005 a fair-employment tribunal in Belfast found that the Simon Community for homeless people had discriminated against former republican prisoners Sean McConkey and Jervis Marks when it refused to employ them because of their backgrounds.

However, while the tribunal ruled that the pair had been the victims of less favourable treatment it said they were not protected under law because their political opinions were interpreted as “supporting violence”.

In August 2000 Mr McConkey, was given a job as a residential support worker with the Simon Community at its Falls Road shelter but was sacked 10 days later after his IRA sentence came to light.

Mr Marks was not offered a job after similar checks revealed his past.

Both men took their case to the Court of Appeal in 2007 to establish whether their former prisoner status meant they could be discriminated against permanently.

The Court of Appeal judges ruled that their cases did not fall within the terms of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order.

Speaking ahead of their appeal to the House of Lords, Sean McConkey said: “This case not only affects thousands of former republican and loyalist prisoners jailed during the conflict but also has implications for anyone who voted for Sinn Féin, the loyalist political parties or anyone who took part in Civil Rights protests in the 1960s.”

“It’s 10 years since the Good Friday Agreement said that political prisoners should not be discriminated against and should be allowed to play a positive role in society.

“Even the recent Eames/Bradley report recommended the introduction of legislation to stop continued discrimination of political prisoners.

“During our original fair employment tribunal we made it very clear that we strongly support the peace process and want to be allowed to lead a normal life like everyone else.

“Ex-lifers like myself can’t get home insurance and even if we get a job and work for 30 years we’re not entitled to a state pension.

“We’re not asking for special treatment, all we’re asking is that we are allowed to play a meaningful part in society.”

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