3 November 2005 Edition

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Fire service criticised over discrimination case

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on Equality and Human rights, Caitríona Ruane MLA, has questioned the attitude of the Fire Service in the Six Counties after it was revealed that they spent £79,000 defending themselves against an allegation of discrimination.

John Allen received £4,000 in compensation from his employers last week after they settled out of court. Allen had taken the Fire Service to task alleging discrimination on grounds of religion and perceived political opinion. Allen's allegation centred on the fact that he was restricted from applying for senior posts at fire service headquarters in Lisburn, on the basis of residence. Catholics and nationalists are historically under-represented at senior levels in the fire service.

Caitríona Ruane has stated that she intends raising the case with the relevant British Direct Rule Minister Shaun Woodward. "This seems an inordinate amount of tax-payers money for a public authority to be expending on defending a discrimination which they later settled.

"In my view, John Allen's case should never have been contested in the first instance. However, having been challenged about their discriminatory conduct, the Fire Service then compounded the grievance by throwing at least £80,000 of public money into defending the indefensible.

"I am profoundly concerned about the lack of an equality ethos within the upper echelons of the Fire Service and I remain unsatisfied with the explanations for the substantial expense in this case."

An Phoblacht
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