Northern Ireland

Gary McClean 'not given job due to political opinion'

Gary McLean Image copyright Equality NI
Image caption Gary McClean was scored highest by all three members of the interview panel

A Londonderry community worker has been awarded more than £10,000 after a tribunal found he had not been given a job because of his political opinion.

Gary McClean was not appointed to the post with Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership, despite scoring the highest at an interview.

A fair employment tribunal found he was unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of his political opinion.

The partnership said it was disappointed with the decision.

In a statement, it said: "Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership believe that that we did not discriminate based on the grounds of political opinion.

"But we have since reviewed our recruitment policies and procedures internally".

Mr McClean was supported by the Equality Commission in taking the case.

The tribunal stated: "This is a highly unusual case where the highest marked candidate in an interview process, who had exceeded the threshold marking, and who had been identified as the person to be appointed, was not appointed."

A score sheet considered by the tribunal recorded the individual marks of each panel member and showed that Mr McClean was scored highest by all three.

In a line on the sheet marked "person appointed", the claimant's name was written and this was followed by the three signatures of the panel members.

The tribunal found that "two members of the interview panel believed he should not have been appointed to the post. The chairman of the interview panel believed he should have been appointed."

The tribunal also stated that, given the nature of the evidence, "it seems highly unlikely there can be any innocent explanation of the extraordinary result of this interview process.

"If there had been such an innocent explanation, it would have been put forward from the start and maintained consistently thereafter."

It said that Mr McClean believed the control and funding of community activities should be a matter for communities themselves and not for main political parties.

'Greater transparency'

Speaking after the ruling, Mr McClean, said: "I have always believed that that the only reason I was considered unacceptable for this post was because my political stance did not fit in with the approach of Sinn Féin and the DUP towards community services and funding.

"The tribunal decision has clearly shown that the Waterside Community Partnership Ltd. cannot give any credible explanation for refusing to appoint me after I had come top in the interview and met the threshold they had set as the standard.

"I didn't take this case for financial reward, but because I hope that, by successfully challenging this process, I can shine a light on the need for greater transparency and accountability in appointments within the community sector."

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: "All appointments, including those in the community sector, must be made without reference to a person's political opinions, or to any other protected ground.

"It is also important that the procedures for such appointments meet basic standards of fairness and transparency and that they are accountable to scrutiny."

McClean did not re-apply, and the post was awarded to another person.

He was awarded £10,734 in compensation by the tribunal.