Ex-PoW suffers discrimination


A former republican prisoner is facing the sack after he failed a security check -- after 19 years.

Martin Neeson was told last November that he could lose his job at ‘The Conservation Volunteers’ after he was branded “unsuitable” for employment following a vetting procedure.

From Poleglass on the outskirts of Belfast, Mr Neeson is a former republican prisoner who served a 12-year jail sentence for his part in the armed struggle.

Mr Neeson, who has worked for the charity since 1995, says he has taken part in previous security processes during which he “given full disclosure” about his past.

However, he failed a recent vetting process overseen by Stormont’s ‘Department of Finance and Personnel’, forcing charity chiefs to review his employment.

The father-of-three said he is not involved with any political group and supports the Good Friday Agreement.

“I have been out of prison for 30 years and have not even got as much as a parking ticket,” he said. “My record since I came out of prison is mostly all community work. How they can still see me as a threat is beyond me.”

Mr Neeson is receiving statutory sick pay which will run out this month. He said attempts to have the decision reversed have fallen on deaf ears.

West Belfast Sinn Fein assembly member Jennifer McCann, who is a junior minister in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, has taken up his case.

“This is an unfair and unjust decision that has resulted in this man facing the threat of losing his job, particularly given the current economic times,” she said.

A spokesman for The Conservation Volunteers said Mr Neeson is a “long-standing valued staff member.”

“We are working to do everything we can to support him,” he said.

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