Northern Ireland

Church of Ireland rector John Hemphill drops age case

Rev John Hemphill
Image caption Rev John Hemphill has dropped his age discrimination case (picture Ards Chronicle)

A Church of Ireland rector has withdrawn an industrial tribunal claim alleging age discrimination, the day before the hearing was due to start.

The Reverend John Hemphill has been suspended from his ministry in Ballyhalbert, County Down, since 2009.

A formal complaint against him was made by the Archdeacon of Down to the Church of Ireland's Complaints Committee.

Mr Hemphill has now accepted a "severe admonition" from the committee, a church spokesman said.

The archdeacon's complaint concerned the rector's behaviour towards individual parishioners.

The case caused uproar in the small parish of Ballyhalbert, where the rector presided over two churches.

It split both congregations - some wanted the suspended rector reinstated, while others wanted him to leave.

When Mr Hemphill was told to refrain from ministry he was a year off retirement age.

The 66-year-old then went ahead with industrial tribunal proceedings against the bishop on age discrimination grounds.