27 February 1997 Edition

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Denton transferred sectarian victim

By Mick Naughton.

Six County Economy Minister Baroness Denton personally ordered the transfer of a high ranking Catholic civil servant who suffered sectarian harassment in her Department of Agriculture job in 1995.

The incident related to a remark made by Denton's private secretary, Alvina Saunders, during the Drumcree stand off in 1995. Shortly after the incident the woman (who has not been named) was transferred to another government department on Denton's personal orders, following a meeting between Saunders and Denton.

Her transfer runs contrary to fair employment guidelines which state that where harassment has occurred it is preferable to transfer the harasser rather than the victim. They also state that, ``where a case of serious harassment has been alleged, consideration should be given to a precautionary suspension of the alleged harasser in the first instance.''

The Catholic woman had been working in Denton's private office at the time, however she is now on what the civil service describe as a ``career break.''

We understand that the position of Alvina Saunders as Denton's private secretary remains unchanged.

£10,000 was paid out of public funds after the Stormont based Department of Agriculture admitted that an incident of sectarian harassment had indeed taken place. They also admitted that they had, ``failed to promote a good and harmonious working environment and atmosphere.''

``This is not the actions of some teenage apprentice welder working in the shipyard,'' said Sinn Fein's North Belfast candidate Gerry Kelly. ``What we are witnessing is a very senior British official acting out a piece of Orange supremacy. It is as good an example of the old Stormont regimes antics as I've seen in many a year.''

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