Institutionalised bigotry at Belfast hospital

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A culture of anti-Catholic hate was rife among staff at Belfast City Hospital in recent years but senior health officials chose not to take action against the perpetrators, it has emerged.

Documents have revealed a “toxic” work atmosphere which dates back to 2011 at the city centre hospital. The reported incidents include:

* Death threats and bullets being sent to the home of an employee along with a photograph of his wife and child. He was called a “Fenian bast*rd” by another staff member.

* Far-right fascist posters about an immigrant ‘invasion’ being put in a Catholic worker’s locker, with “and taigs” [Catholics] written across it; a comment about a Catholic staff member who rang in sick: “F*cking Fenian, kill them all”. Other remarks included the “only good Catholic is a dead one”;

* Names, addresses and car details of some Catholic staff passed to loyalists and members of the Crown Forces, after they were told their details were known.

* Paramilitary-style clothing and loyalist shirts worn by one staff member as he walked through hospital premises.

* Physical and verbal abuse of Catholic staff working on July 12, the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, after wooden pallets were gathered for loyalist bonfires.

* One staff member escorting loyalist serial killer Michael Stone through the hospital punched the air and shouted: “Michael Stone is my hero.”

In a report on the issue, the health authorities claimed there was “insufficient robust evidence” to consider disciplinary action. Recommendations were made to improve “equality and diversity policies” and make staff aware of the importance of a “neutral work environment”.

The scandal only emerged after one victim of sectarian bullying who was secretly filmed by hospital administrators, received a tip-off from a whistleblower last summer. It has since been claimed the footage from the CCTV camera has been deleted or lost.

Sinn Fein Upper Bann assembly member John O’Dowd, who wrote to the trust on behalf of a constituent who was secretly filmed, said the loss of the data was a “very worrying development”.

“I accept that the trust should use all legal methods available to them when serious crimes are suspected but it is also their obligation to inform staff members about covert operations once completed,” he said.

“They should have taken every measure possible to ensure this information was securely held and it has now emerged it has been misplaced, which places more stress on my constituent and infringes on his data protection rights.”

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