Since 1968 a series of reforms have been introduced in Northem Ireland which had as their objective the ensuring of equal treatment as between Protestants and Catholics. However, in spite of successive measures and indeed some goodwill on the part of both the former Stormont and later Westminster authorities these reforms have failed. This has been especially so in the critical area of employment, where the position is now, if anything, worse than it was 14 years ago.
Discrimination on Jobs
Discrimination on Jobs
Set up in 1976, the Fair Employment Agency embodies the reformist intentions of Direct Rule. This body aimed to encourage a climate in which the principle of equality of employment opportunity was afforded to all. However, the terms of the Fair Employment Act meant that the Agency was no mere toothless ad hoc committee. Part of its brief was to expose and combat sectarianism particularly where that expressed itself in discriminatory (on religious grounds) recruitment practices. The Agency was empowered to investigate the employment practices of any company and to bring its findings of discrimination before the legal processes.
It is however some measure of the relative failure of the FEA that by March 1981, there had been but ten findings of discrimination by the agency. Of these ten, three had subsequently been thrown out by the County Court. More worrying for the FEA was the conclusion of an internal report, commissioned in 1979 by the agency, on its own effectiveness. Conducted by Dr. Christopher McCrudden, a specialist on equal opportunity law, this report concludes that the agency has so far failed to enforce its legal powers in the eradication of inequality of opportunity. Furthermore, the McCrudden report is critical of the agency's failure to initiate a policy of affirmative action to open up employment opportunities for Catholics.
The findings of the FEA's own investigations into the Engineering Industry in Belfast and in both the Northern Ireland Electricity Service and the Northern Ireland Civil Service however, underline the size of the discriminatory employment problem. Under the Unionist regime, the skilled trades in Belfast Engineering firms, and nearly all jobs in the Electricity Service and in the Civil Service had been Protestant preserves. Investigations carried out by the FEA since 1977, prove that with the exception of the lower echelons of the Civil Service, there has been little or no change. Given the nature of their findings it is hardly surprising that the FEA has yet officially to publish their figures. However, we have been shown a copy of its report and the following are its main findings.
It should also be noted that given the industrial recession firms like Shorts and Harland, Harland and Wolff claimed that they did not advertise their apprentice vacancies. This means that apprenticeships are usually awarded to a boy whose name has already been on the company books as an applicant. In effect this will often be the relation of an employee. Thus the Protestant hegemony is preserved. At the very time the FEA was investigating both Harland and Wolff, and Shorts and Harland, two small groups of Catholic apprentices placed in both companies on a Work Experience Programme by a careers officer, were intimidated out of both workyards within two days.
At the firm of Hugh J. Scotts, one of the Directors was, amazingly, able to claim that he knew nothing about the background of employees, whilst assuring the FEA that no Catholics were employed. Furthermore this director advised the FEA that the company had "no objection to employing Catholics, but if a Catholic did join the company, it would not be long before he/she found some excuse to leave". Althoup Scotts recruited 12 apprentices every year, contacts for possible candidates were made only through Protestant schools. It is some indication of the value of the FEA Declaration of intent to implement the principle of equality of employment opportunity, to discover that Hugh J. Scotts were signatories to this declaration.
Although all the above firms have been asked by the FEA, under the terms of the Fair Employment Act, to sign undertakings which would generally commit them to the pursuit of an equal opportunity employment policy, none have yet signed. The findings of the FEA in its Investigation of the NIES (Northern Ireland Electricity Service) confirm the suspicion that little has changed in the employment practices of the Northern State. Of the NIES's 241 senior directors and managers, at least 91% were from Protestant backgrounds. Only 10% of the NIES's engineers and only 12% of its administrative staff were Catholic.
At the largest Northern Irish power station, Ballylumford, outside Lame, only 3% of the engineers were Catholic whilst at Coolkeragh power station, near Derry, the proportion of Catholics was less than 25%. Further, the FEA found that "strange results" obtained at recent recruitments, and that the internal progress (promotion) of any Catholic in the NIES was likely to be slower than that of a Protestant.
Ostensibly the overall picture created by the Civil Service is much healthier. The recent FEA survey concludes that the service is divided 60% Protestant, 30% Catholic, with 10% undeclared. However, even the Civil Service begins to show vestiges of its unionist past when an assessment is made of the occupational groupings staffed by the two religions. Because the higher echelons of the Civil Service are predominantly Protestant, the Protestant male is in the highest average wage category. Conversely, the female Catholic, many of whom are employed in the typing grouping, is in the lowest average pay category. Given that the Civil Service is divided into 570 occupational groupings, it often happens that two people at the same staff level will have different salaries because one is employed in the economics, computer type grouping while the other is employed in a transport, maintenance type grouping. The FEA's survey concluded that Protestants form an 80% majority in the more prestigious better paid groupings.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing surveys carried out by the FEA was their "Regional Planning Survey: 1945-1982". The overwhelming conclusion of this paper is that not only has the seventies seen the perpetuation of the traditional East/West disparity vis a vis industrial development but that the eighties will see the continuation of this trend. The table below gives a regional breakdown of the industrial landholdings in the control of the Department of Commerce. These sites represent the location of present industrial developments.
If the old dividing line of the River Bann is used then the industrial landholdings divide reads 79% East/21 % West. Furthermore a breakdown of underdeveloped and partially developed sites shows that the East again has the highest concentration, 50%, while the North has 25%, the South 15% and the West 10%. The significance of these latter figures is that the underdeveloped sites represent the possible location for any incoming industrial concern. Given that, according to the only available figures (1971 Census) the Belfast region represents 75% of all Protestants compared with 48% of all Catholics, then the underlying discriminatory implications of continuing to concentrate industrial development in the Eastern zone are obvious. It might also be noted that this same eastern zone is the preserve of some of the most highly government subsidized jobs in Northern Ireland. The same FEA survey calculates that the cost per job (100% Protestant) at Harland and Wolff is £17,900 to the government. Similarly by 1982, the cost per job at Shorts and Harland will be £30,000.
In conclusion this FEA survey states:
"The River Bann's validity as a marker of unbalanced spatial differentials weighing in the East's favour has stood the mark of time and political and economic initiative remarkably well."
It is obvious from all of the foregoing that the Northern State itself has withstood the mark of time and the efforts of reformism remarkably well. Northern Unionists may no longer proclaim a theory of jobs for a Protestant people, but the effect of the Direct Rule administration is just that.
In the past the excuse has been offered, on behalf of companies with an unfairly high level of Protestant skilled workers, that it was impossible for them to find enough Catholic skilled workers since just those very jobs were Protestant preserves. However, that Catch 22 has been broken more recently by the fact that most apprentices now begin their training, not on the company shop floor, but in Government Training Centres (GTCs). Tus there are proportionately as many Catholic apprentices available for work as Protestants.
Discrimination has not been confined to old established companies alone. Firms like Hughes, an American company established in the mid-seventies reflect the same unfair practices. Even a company like Fords (Autolite) has been guilty of discrimination. Established in Catholic West Belfast in the mid-sixties, Fords could perhaps, at that time, have claimed with some legitimacy that initially they were forced to take on a disproportionate number of Protestants, because Catholics were not available. Even if this questionable argument were true, it does not excuse the company's failure to initiate an apprenticeship intake scheme which would reflect their 90% Catholic catchment area. Had they done so back in the sixties, that scheme would be mirrored in the numbers of their skilled workforce, 15 years later. Instead we find that Fords have a 90% Protestant skilled workforce and have encouraged a Catholic intake only in the last three to four years, and that even that intake in no way reflects the company's catchment area.
Again the above statistics do not reveal the extent to which many firms were unwilling to cooperate with the FEA, were dismissive of it and the principles which it embodies. Five years after the engineering investigation has begun, the FEA has, amazingly, failed to publish the results. They claim that lack of co-operation from the firms has been a major hold-up.On occasion, both Ministers of State Concannon and Rossi have also tried to interfere with the FEA. Don Concannon asked the FEA to bear in mind the importance of Ford in Northern Ireland and the use that the government was making of that company to try to encourage further investment. In the interests of "security", therefore, the investigation into Fords (Autolite), went into a "hiatus". Tory minister Rossi expressed his concern that the Civil Service inquiry would not upset the existing employees.
These moves by ministers, the relative ineffectiveness of the FEA, the extent to which it has allowed itself to be shoved around by the large engineering concerns and the fact that its most contentious and informative reports have yet to be published all ask the question as to whether the Direct Rule administration is at all concerned about discriminatory employment practices. Direct Rule for a Protestant people?
Discrimination in Local Government
Discrimination in Local Government
This was the area of greatest abuse by unionists pre-I973 when the whole structure of local government was reformed. Then PR was introduced into local government elections, the number of local authorities was reduced to 26 and constituted on an objectively fair basis. But, more significantly, local authorities were stripped of all their major functions, including education, housing, planning and social services - leaving only the appointments of council staff (recreational officers, park attendants etc.), street sweeping, garbage collection, tending parks and
burying the dead.
Although the voting system is now clearly fairer than formerly and almost all seats are now contested (between 1927 and 1967 on Belfast Corporation alone, 255 seats were won without contest), still unionists control almost 20 of the 26 councils throughout the North, while the SDLP control only two - Derry and Newry and Mourne. Available facts and figures do suggest however that whatever powers the councils now have, they are willing to abuse them along sectarian lines, principally against Catholics. For example, only two of the 16 Unionist controlled councils have agreed to- sign the FEA's (Fair Employment Agency) declaration of intent to implement the principle of equality of employment opportunity. Several councils have been publicly dismissive of this declaration and one councillor, Douglas Hutchinson of Armagh underlined his attitude to the declaration by publicly tearing it up.
Even though councils' powers are limited, unionist (and nationalist/republican) councillors have been willing to use the public forum of the council and the powers they do have to express sectarian prejudices. The question of Sunday opening of council controlled facilities makes the point. Cookstown, Limavady and Larne councils have in the past refused to allow swimming pools to open on Sundays. Ballymena councill still does not allow Sunday opening. In their responsibilities for the sponsorship of sport, councils have repeatedly expressed a sectarian bias against the GAA. Magherafelt council has consistently refused to fund the GAA and Ballymena Council refused the GAA a place on its Sports Advisory Committee.
Likewise the management of community centres has occasioned sectarian prejudices. In 1975 Armagh Council refused to take over a new community centre in the Catholic Callan Bridge estate. Magherafelt Council, also in 1975, refused to consider building a community centre in the mainly Catholic town of Draperstown. In the matter of council nominations to public bodies, it is clear that Unionists have a disproportionately high representation. Local councils nominate 40% of the membership of the Education and Library Boards, 30% of the Health and Social Services Boards, 25% of the Housing Executive and 100% of the Housing Council (and advisory body). An analysis of the 1977-1981 local government councils revealed that although 54.66% of local councillors were unionist, 66.29% of the nominated representatives on public boards are unionist.
Again in the matter of appointments made by councils, discrimination recurs regularly. A charge brought by the FEA against Cookstown Council for discriminatory employment practices is currently in litigation. The appointment of a Craigavon recreation officer in 1978 instigated a complaint by the disappointed applicant to the FEA, which in turn found Craigavon Council guilty of discrimination in not hiring the complainant (Duffy). Craigavon Council appealed the decision in Armagh County Court and their appeal was upheld. That decision itself was reversed in the High Court by Chief Justice Lord Lowry.
Discrimination in the Legal System
Discrimination in the Legal System
The fundamental abnormality of the Northern Irish state, by the standards of British socioemocratic ideology, is nowhere more apparent than in the special powers invested in the security forces and in the special legal procedures instigated to deal with 'political violence".
Two pieces of legislation give the Northern Irish state its peculiar character. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act of 1973 (renewed in 1978) set up the Diplock Courts for the purposes of trying scheduled offences. (Scheduled offences included murder, manslaughter, serious offences against the person, arson, malicious damage, riot, offences under the Firearms Act (N.J.) 1969 and the Explosive Substances Act 1883, armed robbery, burglary, intimidation, membership of unlawful organisations and the collection of information likely to be of use to terrorists.) In addition the 1973 Act empowered the British Army to arrest and hold for four hours of questioning after which time arrested persons must be released or handed over to the RUC for a possible 72 hours further detention.
The other significant legislation governing police behaviour in Northern Ireland, is the 1976 Prevention of Terrorism Act (Supplemental Temporary Provisions NJ,). Although this Act offers more formal protection, in that the arresting officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the person to be arrested has been guilty of an offence under the Act, it does empower detention for up to seven days. The potential for abuse of the above powers is obvious. Under the 1978 renewal of the Emergency Provisions Act, a police officer is under no obligation to specify the alleged offence committed by the person arrested. He need only state that he suspects the person to be a terrorist and he is not obliged to prove that his suspicion is reasonable. Furthermore, this Act allows the person arrested to be held for three days, during which time he may be interrogated.
Since the majority of paramilitary activity is based in the Catholic areas, it is these same areas which suffer the most harrassment from the security forces. The number of suspects picked up in Catholic districts is obviously much higher than the number of Protestant suspects arrested in Protestant districts. There are no figures to prove that in proportion to the amount of paramilitary activity in their communities, that Catholics are discriminated
against. Yet, since the RUC and UDR are currently calculated to be 96% and 98% Protestant, respectively,
there must be some suggestion that the Catholic community, as a whole, does not receive fair treatment from the security forces.
The special procedures for the trial of those charged with terrorist offences were set up by the Diplock Commission of 1972 and introduced at the end of 1973. The Commission's aim was to remedy three specific problems which had occurred in the securing of convictions under ordinary criminal procedures. Common law rules on the admissibility of confessions obtained during interrogation had resulted in many cases being lost or dropped by the prosecution. In a "Diplock" court, confessions are admitted, providing they have not been obtained by torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. In practice most confessions are inevitably obtained under duress, to put it mildly.
A further abnormality of the "Diplock" court is that it is juryless. This is to avoid both the bias of jurors (largely Protestant juries had produced some strange acquittals in the cases of loyalist paramilitaries) and the intimidation of jurors. In effect this means that defendants are dependent on the justice and fairness of the judges, the vast majority of whom are Protestant, notwithstanding recent appointments of Catholic judges.
In their analysis of the workings of the Diplock Courts, the academics, Boyle, Hadden and Hilliard failed to establish any systematic discrimination against Republican offenders. Their assessment of all the cases which
came before the Diplock Courts in 1979 found that 77% of Loyalists were imprisoned as opposed to 57% of Republicans. Likewise 37% of Loyalists received sentences of over 10 years, or life, by comparison with 31% of Republicans.
The apparent impartiality in sentencing masks the fact that a great many more Republicans are brought before the courts than Loyalists. One of the main reasons for this is that the RUC is much more willing to charge young Catholics from areas which are known Provo/INLA strongholds with membership of an unlawful organisation.
Boyle, Hadden and Hilliard conclude that the Diplock system operates without discrimination, It might well be open to abuse, it might well be regularly abused, but it is abused with fearless religious impartiality.
Currently one of the greatest areas of contention in the workings of the Diplock courts concerns the widespread use of the testimony of so called "supergrasses". The special conditions of the Diplock courts which make such evidence admissible also mean that the onus of proof is placed on the defendant and not on the prosecution. In other words the defendant has to prove that he/she was not involved in the action referred to by the "grass'" testimony.
A further abuse of the legal system represented by the Diplock courts and mostly felt by the Catholic community is the fact that in the case of "scheduled offences", bail is not allowed and has to be applied for to the High Court. Between August 1973 and December 1979 applications for bail were granted in 37% of scheduled cases. In effect this means that the average wait between arrest and trial, in 1979, worked out at 43 weeks - for a charge which may well receive a noncustodial sentence.
We list below two examples of obvious discrimination on the part of Northern Irish judges. It is important to remember that, notwithstanding the reformist intentions of Westminster and the fact that large numbers of Cathotics have found work in the busy Northern Irish legal system, the ranks of the judges and magistrate remain a largely Protestant preserve.
1) Three Belfast Catholics, Sean McClenaghan, Robert McCallum and John Conway were given sentences of 10 years at Belfast City Commission. They were found guilty of "possession with intent" of a 9mm pistol, seven bullets, a sawn-off shotgun and two cartridges. McCallum was also given a five year concurrent jail sentence for belonging to the IRA. On that same day two men who admitted being members of the Orange Volunteer Force were each given 12 month suspended jail sentences for possession of firearms. William Todd and Robert Carnwath from Antrim pleaded guilty to possession of two pistols and one shotgun. In sentencing the two, the judge said that he accepted that they had both got involved in the paramilitary organisation "in times of great emotion".
Irish News 29/9/77.
Irish News 29/9/77.
2) In June 1981, Judge Robert Babington gave a fine of £600 to a security officer at Hillsborough Castle. The man, Walter Lynn, admitted collecting ammunition and firearm components in case "the fabric of society was brought down under the assaults of terrorists". Lynn claimed that he kept his private arsenal at home and that he intended using it under the direction of the security forces in the event of a "doomsday situation". In summing up the case, Judge Babington said:
"In considering the state of affairs in Northern Ireland, one would not be surprised if persons did find it incumbent upon them to seek the oddest kind of solution to the problems, in desperation ... I am satisfied you felt very strongly, clearly and honestly and that you thought you were behaving as a good patriot should."
Belfast Telegraph June 12 1981. Housing
Belfast Telegraph June 12 1981.
There has been real progress in this area since the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) was established, in 1971 and took over control of housing from local governments. Nowadays allegations concerning bias in housing allocations are made by extreme unionists who accuse the NIHE of favouring Catholics. The NIHE did back off however on the construction of a housing estate adjacent to Catholic West Belfast, when the nearby unionist Lisburn Council objected, saying that it would become "a breeding ground for terrorists". Although Catholic West Belfast has almost twice the overcrowding rate of the rest of the city only half the 4,000 housing originally scheduled for construction - and now, nine years after the development was first proposed, only the first phase of the construction has been completed.