Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Northern Ireland Assembly

Continuation of Tuesday 27 June 2000


Fire Service: Award

Equality Commission

Continuation of Tuesday 27 June 2000


On resuming —

[Madam Deputy Speaker (Ms Morrice) in the Chair]


Fire Service: Award

6.00 pm

Madam Deputy Speaker:

I have received notice from the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety that a statement is to be made on the Fire Service. I call the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (Ms de Brún):

A LeasCheann Comhairle. Sula ndéanaim an ráiteas ba mhaith liom an deis seo a ghlacadh le leithscéal a thabhairt do na Teachtaí cionnas gurbh éigean leagan úr Gaeilge den ráiteas a sholáthar i mbeagán ama. Bhí gá leis seo le rudaí a bhí mí-chruinn sa bhunleagan a cheartú.

Before making my statement I would like to apologise to Members for the fact that the Irish version had to be replaced at short notice. This was necessary to correct inaccuracies.

Le do chead, a LeasCheann Comhairle, déanfaidh mé an ráiteas anois.

Is mian liom faisnéis a thabhairt do Theachtaí den Tionól Reachtach faoi na socruithe atá á ndéanamh le honóir a thabhairt don tSeirbhís Dóiteáin as an tseirbhís as cuimse a rinne siad le triocha bliain anuas.

Buailfidh an t-Údarás Dóiteáin bonn a bhronnfar ar gach trodaí dóiteáin a bhfuil ar a laghad trí bliana de sheirbhís leanúnach le dea-iompar curtha isteach aige/aici idir na blianta 1969 agus 2000. Bronnfar meadáille ar fhoireann tacaíochta na briogáide a bhfuil cúig bliana seirbhíse acu le linn an achair seo.

Beidh an chéad bhronnadh sa Halla Mhór, Foirgnimh na Parlaiminte, níos moille sa samhradh nuair a bhéarfas mé na chéad duaiseanna do roinnt trodaithe dóiteáin agus do roinnt de fhoireann tacaíochta na briogáide.

Obair an-chontúirteach í an múchadh dóiteáin agus cúis mhór bróin é gur gortaíodh an iomad trodaí dóiteáin agus iad i mbun a gcuid oibre agus go bhfuair cuid acu bás ag cosaint beatha agus sealúchas an phobail. Murach calmacht agus éifeacht ár gcuid trodaithe dóiteáin agus cuidiú lucht tacaíochta na briogáide, bheadh na mílte marbh atá beo inniu. Tá mé cinnte go mbeidh iomlán na dTeachtaí ar aon intinn liom go bhfuil bronnadh na mbonn agus na meadáillí seo tuillte go maith mar chomhartha aitheantais as an obair rí-thábhachtach seo.

I wish to advise Members of the arrangements being made to pay tribute to the exceptional service of the Fire Service over the last thirty years. The Fire Authority will strike a medal that will be awarded to all fire fighters having at least three years’ continual service with good conduct; this includes service between 1969 and 2000. Other brigade staff with five years’ service, which includes service within this period, will be presented with a medallion.

The first award ceremony will take place in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, later in the summer, when I will present the first awards to a number of firefighters and brigade support staff. Fire-fighting is very dangerous work, and it is to be regretted that many firefighters have been injured, and a number have lost their lives while protecting the public and trying to save property. Many people owe their lives to the courage and skill of our firefighters and the important contribution of brigade support staff. I am sure that all Members will agree with me that the award of these medals and medallions is well-deserved recognition for this vital work.

Ms Lewsley:

I commend the Minister for recognising the work of the Northern Ireland Fire Brigade by awarding this medal. It is most appropriate given the low morale over recent months and the fact that over the last 30 years the Fire Service has provided an excellent service and shown a commitment to the community throughout the troubles, sometimes putting their own lives at risk. Would the Minister agree that given that public safety is at the core of this issue, there is a need to redress the balance to bring the local fire brigade numbers into line with the services in the rest of the UK? Considering the size and the population of Northern Ireland, it would also be beneficial if the Fire Service were to receive a significant increase in funding to enable it to increase its recruitment programme to provide adequate coverage in all areas in the North of Ireland.

Ms de Brún:

I welcome the Member’s tributes for the Fire Service. It is to be understood that the fire brigade here is a labour-intensive organisation with over 900 whole-time and over 900 part-time firefighters. The target establishment for the whole-time firefighters is 919 personnel, 899 of whom are in post, leaving a shortfall of 20. The target establishment for part-time firefighters is 980, and 917 are in post which is a shortfall of 63. Those are comprehensive numbers in terms of staffing levels here. Following the comprehensive spending review in 1999, additional moneys were allocated to the Fire Service. The moratorium on recruitment was, therefore, able to be lifted. Twenty-five additional firefighters were recruited in August 1999, and a further 25 recruits had their passing-out parade only last week. The fire authority is experiencing difficulty in recruiting part-time firefighters, but its preference is to recruit part-time firefighters on a 24-hour call-out basis.

In terms of the question the Member asked about money and investment, the Fire Authority baseline budget allocation has risen, and this is significant. It has risen from £43·7 million in 1998/99 to £51·4 million for 2000/01. An additional £4·9 million was allocated last year, which is an increase of £8·5 million in real terms. The £51·4 million allocation for this year represents an increase of £2·9 million over the 1999/00 allocation, representing a 3% increase in real terms.

We have also seen modernisation and improvement in the standard of fire services, which is being pursued through the development and efficient maintenance of a fire brigade fleet and fire-fighting equipment. The comparative cost of fire services in England for 1999/00 was £30,024, in Wales it was £32,055 and here it was £26,654, so there are significant comparisons.

Mr Paisley Jnr:

Of course it does not take a statement from an IRA/Sinn Féin Minister to get Members on this side of the House to congratulate the Fire Service for their sterling work in preserving property, life and limb from fire and danger in this society over the last decades. Can the Minister confirm to the House how many fires the Fire Service has had to attend and put out as a result of Provisional IRA bombs? What has been the cost to the Fire Service in terms of manpower and resources in dealing with such bomb attacks and tackling fires caused by terrorism in Northern Ireland?

Did the Minister, when meeting the Fire Service, apologise to it for the years of bomb attacks that placed the lives of firemen in jeopardy because of the activities of members of her party? Has she called on her community to cease from stoning and attacking firemen and stopping them from doing their duty? Should the Minister not be embarrassed by coming to this House and announcing an award to a Fire Service that her party tried to expunge from existence in Northern Ireland?

Ms de Brún:

It is not possible to disaggregate those fires and other incidents that the Fire Service has attended over the last 30 years which specifically emanated from the conflict or from any section of the community from those which occurred for other reasons. We can all recite specific incidents which occurred in the course of the conflict over the past 30 years and engage in pointing the finger of blame. I had hoped that today would not be about political point-scoring. That is certainly not my intention, and I hope that Members will not wish to engage in that either. Today we give due recognition to the Fire Service’s labour for all sections of the community throughout the period, often at great personal risk to its members.

Mr Neeson:

I sincerely welcome the Minister’s statement. The awards are long overdue, given the Fire Service’s bravery over the years of the troubles. Even now its members are being attacked on the streets by all sides. This is not the time for making political statements. Rather we should be thankful for this announcement.

I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to reviewing existing Fire Service provision throughout Northern Ireland, bearing in mind that, in recent times, there has been a significant population growth in a number of areas which still only have part-time firemen and facilities. The time has now come for full-time Fire Service provision to be made in these areas.

Ms de Brún:

I thank the Member for his kind words which I shall ensure are passed on to the Fire Service. It is fitting today that we give recognition to the Fire Service. We all wish it well in the work that it is carrying out today, just as we wish those well who have carried out such work over the past 30 years.

I have given some details of significant investment in existing provision. I should be happy to write to the Member if he wishes to raise specific areas with me where it is felt that existing provision should be altered.

Mr J Kelly:

Thank you, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I too welcome the Minister’s statement and concur with those who have pointed out that this is not an occasion for political point-scoring. We have met members of the Fire Service Union and, indeed, the Fire Authority itself on several occasions, and those meetings were extremely amicable.

In the health authority we have spoken about the integration of the Fire Service and the Ambulance Service. Would the Minister like to comment on that? Does the Minister recognise the need for North/South co-operation between the fire brigades? Have any formal arrangements been put in place for this?

Ms de Brún:

There is already good co-operation between the Fire Service and the Ambulance Service in training and communications. The inclusion of responsibility for fire and ambulance services under a single Department will, of course, now provide greater opportunities for increased co-operation and efficiency, including joint training and the sharing of premises for vehicles. I also expected it to lead to the development of a common communications infrastructure and joint approaches to the provision of information to the public about access to public safety.

6.15 pm

With regard to North/South co-operation, the Fire Service maintains a good working relationship with brigades in the South. There is a formal arrangement with Donegal County Council in which the Fire Service provides fire and emergency cover for East Donegal. The cost of doing so is a retainer of £3,500 per annum and a charge of £195.50 per appliance per call out. Cross-border protocols exist between local fire stations also in terms of responding to emergencies. Contacts have been established with the Dublin Fire Brigade for joint training initiatives and for considering questions of, for example, advanced technology. There is ongoing co-operation therefore. As part of their fleet replacement programme, smaller fire brigades in the South purchase some of the Fire Service’s older appliances that have become surplus to requirements.

Mr Davis:

I welcome the announcement of the award to the Fire Service. Does the Minister intend to give posthumous awards? I believe that the first person who died as a result of a bomb explosion was Mr Wesley Orr from Lisburn.

Ms de Brún:

We are talking about bringing forward proposals that have been under consideration for some time in terms of the recognition for firefighters. The type of award that was to be brought forward had been discussed between members of the Fire Service Past Members’ Association and previous Ministers with responsibility for the Fire Service. I have not yet given any consideration to further awards, or other forms of awards. I think we need to mark quite clearly our regret that nine firefighters lost their lives, and that hundreds of firefighters were injured in the last 30 years. Again, I have to say that it is not possible to disaggregate the specific causes and the specific contexts in which those occurred. It is a matter of regret to us all that firefighters lose their lives defending our population, and we should give them every recognition for the service they have given.

Mr Gallagher:

I welcome the Minister’s statement and the recognition of the invaluable service given by the personnel in the Fire Service. Will the Minister include the families of those who have lost their lives at the awards ceremonies? At the first gathering, which will probably be the main focus of attention, does she intend to have a geographical spread of people from all of the fire stations throughout Northern Ireland present?

Ms de Brún:

I thank the Member for the questions. He raises very important points. The specific details have not yet been laid out, and I will certainly bear in mind the points he has made.

Ms Ramsey:

Go raibh maith agat, Madam Deputy Chair. I also welcome the Minister’s statement, and I think an award to the Fire Service is long overdue. I have a couple of questions.

Can the Minister inform us of the total number of house fires that have taken place over the last two years? Will she work with the Minister for Social Development to ensure that all public and private sector housing will be fitted with smoke alarms as a matter of urgency to reduce the number of senseless deaths?

Ms de Brún:

I fully support the points the Member made in her question about the need for smoke alarms. I am sure she will agree that the Fire Service has recently undertaken significant initiatives to ensure that smoke alarms are not only fitted but tested regularly. There has been some success in this, and I want to pay tribute to it for this. I should certainly be quite happy not only when it is necessary but when we wish to see co-operation between different Departments to ensure that it is possible. I shall write to the Member with a specific answer.

Mr Dalton:

I wish to welcome the statement from the Minister today and make it known to the House that some tribute should be paid to Mr Harry Martin, the secretary of the Retired Firefighters’ Association, who has steadfastly campaigned for this medal for the past five years. It is through Mr Martin’s sterling work that this has been brought to people’s attention. I approached Mr Martin some time ago to become involved in trying to promote this issue as well, and the Minister will be aware of this from some of the correspondence on the file. I am glad to hear that this is going to happen, for the Fire Service deserves to be recognised for the work it has done for the entire community. The medal will go some way towards recognising the service that has been given by the Fire Service to all members of the community, from whatever side. I welcome this statement today.

Ms de Brún:

I concur absolutely. I previously made reference to the Retired Firefighters’ Association, but not specifically to Mr Harry Martin, and I welcome the opportunity to do so now. His work in bringing this to the attention of the Ministers responsible for the Fire Service has been commendable. I am glad — in fact, honoured — to have been given the opportunity to take this work forward.

Mr Carrick:

I am honoured to welcome the tribute to firefighters’ courage over the last 30 years in particular. I should like the Minister to comment on her reply to a question when she said that it was a source of regret that nine firefighters had lost their lives as a result of the troubles. Will she now go further and lend credibility to her statement by condemning the terrorists for their actions that led to those deaths?

Ms de Brún:

I must point out to the Member that I did not say that. I pointed out that nine firefighters had lost their lives over the last 30 years. It is not possible to disaggregate figures into those who lost their lives in the conflict and those who lost their lives fighting fires in other circumstances. I have therefore stated clearly that I note not only that firefighters have lost their lives, but that hundreds of others have been injured fighting fires. It is not for the Department to try to disaggregate the causes of those fires. My wish today is to pay tribute to the firefighters’ service, and it is a source of regret to me that firefighters have been injured or lost their lives in carrying out this tremendous work.

Mr Davis:

I can assure the Minister that Mr Wesley Orr was killed by a bomb explosion in Belfast. It should not be too hard to find that out from the Department.

Mr Dodds:

I join with all those who have welcomed this long-overdue award for those who have served in the Fire Service. We all agree on the tremendous, sterling work that they have done, especially in the difficult circumstances of the last 30 years.

I would like to question the Minister further about some of the statements that she has made. Surely it must be possible to have these figures disaggregated. Whether or not it is possible, she may not wish to do it now, but it must surely be possible to have figures supplied on who was responsible for arson and bomb attacks over the years. At the very least, the Chief Constable issues certificates on many of these attacks, so the information will be on record.

Further to the previous question, instead of obscuring the issue of who was responsible for particular deaths, will the Minister take the opportunity now — regardless of which terrorist organisation was responsible — not to waffle or be ambiguous but to condemn clearly those terrorist outrages and make her position absolutely clear?

It is also time for the Minister, instead of coming here and paying tribute to the Fire Service, which is incumbent on all of us, to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the other emergency services, notably the police and the Army, instead of condoning the murder and maiming of their officers and soldiers.

Ms de Brún:

While I have said that it has not been possible to disaggregate figures, I am in no way taking away from the fact that at the very beginning of my statement I made it very clear that I wish to advise Members of the arrangements which are being made to pay tribute to the exceptional service of the Fire Service over the last 30 years. The context in which I made that statement is therefore very clear, as was the context in which those firefighters carried out their work over the last 30 years. I have, however, no intention of being diverted from what today is about. The suffering which all sections of the community have endured over the past 30 years, as a result of the conflict, is a matter for regret. Firefighters suffered too, and I regret that and I recognise that. [Interruption]

Madam Deputy Speaker:

Order. The Minister has a right to be heard.

Ms de Brún:

I feel very strongly that on a day when we have come to pay tribute to the firefighters we should focus on applauding the Fire Service for its service to the community rather than score political points or engage in pointing the finger of blame for the past 30 years of conflict.

Mr Morrow:

I have listened to what the Minister has to say, and I would like to start by saying that this recognition of the Fire Service is long overdue. It is something, regrettably, that has come about because of pressure from, and lobbying by, the Fire Service and others. I also concur with what Mr Dalton said about Harry Martin. He is the gentleman who pioneered this and spearheaded the attack, as it were, on the Departments to bring this recognition about.

However, the statement that the Minister has delivered here this evening has a hollow ring to it. The fact that she deliberately sidesteps this and is not prepared to condemn terrorists who caused the death of nine firemen — [Interruption]

Madam Deputy Speaker:

Order. The Member should ask a question and not make a statement.

Mr Morrow:

It should be a very simple task for the Minister to find out how the nine members who were killed lost their lives. What were the circumstances and who caused their deaths? Could we have less waffle and more direct answers please.

Ms de Brún:

I feel that I have dealt with these points again and again. I do applaud the work that Harry Martin has done. I do recognise that this question of recognition for firefighters has been under consideration for some time, and I am very glad to have been able to bring this forward today. It is not possible for me to give the circumstances, in all cases, of those who have been killed or injured over the last 30 years.

6.30 pm

Mr Beggs:

I welcome the announcement of the medals for the good service of the fire officers over the years. Rather than just give out medals, however, will the Minister acknowledge that the Fire Service in Northern Ireland receives less, per thousand of population, than other regions of the United Kingdom? Will she also accept that underfunding can mean that it takes longer to deal with emergencies and that can result in the loss of lives?

Ms de Brún:

My view is that we compare well in terms of investment here. The Fire Authority has a baseline budget allocation that has risen from £43·7 million in 1998/99 to £51·4 million in 2000/01. An additional £4·9 million was allocated last year, an increase of 8·5% in real terms. On this year’s resources, £51·4 million represents an increase of £2·9 million over the 1999/00 allocation, a real terms increase of 3·6%.

The Fire Service needs to be efficient and effective — public safety depends on that. I am committed to maintaining and improving our Fire Service, but we should not underestimate the significant resources that are available or the fact that we compare reasonably favourably in terms of those resources.

Mr Berry:

I would like to commend and salute the Fire Brigade for the tremendous work and dedication with which it has served Northern Ireland over the last thirty years. I must say that we have not received answers on this side of the House. Can the Minister confirm how many firemen, over these past 30 years, have been murdered due to IRA/Sinn Féin activity? Is it possible for the Minister of Sinn Féin/IRA to confirm to the House that she condemns the work of the IRA over the past 30 years? When is she going to condemn the work of Sinn Féin/IRA? This is rank hypocrisy on her part.

Ms de Brún:

I have dealt with both these questions.

Rev Dr William McCrea:

I also congratulate the members of the Fire Service; they have shown courage and determination in protecting the lives of innocent, law-abiding people throughout the Province. Lip-service to this is something that the firefighters do not really appreciate. Without looking deeper into the figures that have been mentioned today, it is clear that nine persons died over the years of murder and mayhem. It would be easy for any Minister to find out exactly who those persons were and exactly how they died at the hands of terrorism.

Does she agree that the courage of these firefighters is in sharp contrast to the cowardice of the IRA men who murdered them?

Ms de Brún:

I have saluted the courage of the firefighters, and I salute them again. I have said that I will not engage in political point scoring, and I will not do so now.

Mrs E Bell:

The message from the Minister is that she recognises and acknowledges the work of the firefighters over the years, and I am very pleased to have heard it. Can the Minister assure me that the investment and the reorganisation mentioned in the statement will come about as quickly as possible?

I have had many meetings with local firefighters as a result of the dispute that was recently solved, and there is no talk of who did what or when. People are talking about setting up a good fire fighting service that is recognised by, and has the confidence of, everyone. I welcome this as a step towards achieving that.

Ms de Brún:

Certainly I will ensure that the necessary investment is made available and that there is no delay. I will carefully consider any recommendations that come forward for improvement, but I would point again to the significant investment that is there at present.

Equality Commission

Madam Deputy Speaker:

We move now to the Equality Commission motion. The Business Committee has allocated two hours for this debate. Given the number of Members wishing to speak, I have decided to allow the mover of the motion up to 15 minutes, and a further 15 minutes will be available for the winding-up speech. All other Members should limit their speeches to eight minutes. This will be reviewed during the course of the debate.

Mr Campbell:

I beg to move

That this Assembly notes the publication by the Equality Commission of their tenth annual monitoring report, criticises the worsening under-representation of the Protestant community, particularly in the public sector, and calls upon the Equality Commission to address this problem as a matter of urgency.

It is more than 22 years since the first publication by what was then the Fair Employment Agency on the subject of fair employment. Many other publications and reports have followed. There have been many references in all of those publications to the fact that Roman Catholic males are twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestant males. This simplistic cliché has underpinned almost all Government legislation since 1978. There has never been any attempt to accept that, at the outset of Northern Ireland’s troubled existence, the leaders of Roman Catholic opinion in Northern Ireland called for Catholics not to take positions in the Civil Service, the largest single employer in the country. It was gross hypocrisy then, almost fifty years later, for that same community to complain about not getting the jobs it had previously advocated not taking up.

Since the violence erupted in 1969 there has been a huge increase in security-related employment, and because of IRA intimidation there has been a low uptake from Roman Catholics in that sector. Unfortunately, very little reference is made in successive fair employment reports to these uncomfortable but factual positions. At the outset others and I were very critical of those early reports in that they excluded any reference to the discrimination against Protestants. Initially, those of us who campaigned on that issue were dismissed as being inaccurate or as being only partially correct.

After the evidence began to mount, the defence from the Fair Employment Agency, later the Fair Employment Commission, against these allegations was that unfairness against the Protestant community was contained to very small geographic areas. Today I intend to demonstrate that there is widespread disadvantage being suffered now by the Protestant community right across Northern Ireland.

I want to turn now to present day events. Quite often in the Equality Commission reports we get facts and figures which can mislead people. The most relevant section of the tenth monitoring report is chapter five, entitled "Applicants and Appointees". I have made the point over and over again to successive Government Departments that the composition of a company or a public sector body, many of whose employees were employed twenty, thirty or forty years ago, is not important. That is of little relevance. What is of relevance is what those companies and the public sector are doing now, not whom they employed in 1960, 1970 or 1980, but whom they are employing today. That is the relevant and most significant section of any report.

The motion refers to the public sector. In table 41 from chapter five of the report we can see exactly how many people applied for positions in the public sector. This is not a small position in some corner; this is not some minor firm; this is the public sector, which had 125,448 applicants, one in four of the entire employed population of Northern Ireland. We are not talking about a sector or a small geographic area. We are talking about a swath of people looking for employment — more than 125,000 of them. If we exclude, as the Equality Commission has done, the applicants who cannot easily be put into either Protestant or Roman Catholic categories, we are left with 55% who are Protestants and almost 45% who are Catholic, and that in itself shows a very slight under-representation of Protestants. It is known that of the available workforce in Northern Ireland approximately 57% are Protestant, so we have a slight under-representation of Protestants applying for positions in the public sector.

This cause for concern is minimal, however, compared to the concern we have about those who were appointed from the 125,000 plus applicants — 16,101 people in all, a figure which breaks down to show 52% Protestants and almost 48% Catholics. I want to be absolutely clear, so that people know exactly what we are talking about, that this covers all sectors across Northern Ireland and shows not only an under-representation of Protestants applying for positions in the public sector, but a further under-representation of Protestants actually getting jobs in it. Only 52% were successful while Protestants make up 57% of the working population in Northern Ireland. As I say, more than 16,000 were recruited, and only 52% of them were Protestant.

I want to look at a couple of sectors to emphasise the point. In the health sector, 36,000 people applied for employment last year, of whom 49% were Protestant. Remember, it ought to have been 57%. Now, if we had expected 57% of those recruited to be Protestant, we would have been disappointed. Only 48% were Protestant — an under-representation of Protestants being employed in the health sector. Now lest anyone think that we are talking about a small number of people, over 6,000 people were offered employment last year in the health sector, and only 49% of them were Protestant.

We now turn to the huge education sector within the huge public sector where 16,564 people applied for jobs. Only 53·8% of them were Protestant — a 4% under-representation of the Protestant community in people applying for, not getting, jobs. What happened after that? Only 48% of them were successful. The pattern is emerging in department after department, and this time we are talking about 3,666 people who were successful in getting employment in the education sector — another very sizeable number of people.

6.45 pm

I will move on to the issue of how this under-representation is defended. Often when I and others quote these statistics, which as I often say are not our statistics, but Government statistics from the agency set up to monitor the public sector, a defence is made which I call the quality defence. That means that there is a fall-back position. Some Government officials and some people in the old Fair Employment Commission would have said "Yes, the number of Protestants being employed is quite small, as you, Mr Campbell, and others, allege, but the quality of the jobs, the people at the top end of the public sector are very predominantly Protestant." In other words, it is this nonsense that I hear from some commentators that Catholics get the menial jobs and the Protestants get the cream. That is a total and utter fallacy. The fallacy is proven by table 43 in chapter 5 of the monitoring report.

What does it tell us? It uses a breakdown called the Standard Occupational Classification, which runs from SOC1 to SOC9. SOC1 jobs are the most highly paid positions: managers and administrators. SOC2 covers the professional occupations. SOC3s are associate professional and technical occupations. And so it goes, down to the lower grades at SOC9. If the myth and the nonsense were accurate, one would expect to see the highest numbers of Protestants at the higher grades, if what I hear from the pan-Nationalist front was accurate. In reality, it is the reverse. If we look at SOC1, SOC2 and SOC3, the three highest grades in the public sector, they have the lowest Protestant success rates. The higher the grade in the public sector, the less likely you are to find a Protestant. That is what this report tells us.

Looking at SOC1, 48% of those appointed last year were Protestant, and almost 52% Catholic. At the second highest grade, 47% were Protestant and 53% Catholic. At the third highest grade, 48% to just over 51%. You have to go right down to the bottom grades to get a higher number of Protestants, yet there are those who would tell us that Protestants get the most jobs and the best jobs. In reality, Protestants do not get their fair share of jobs, and the jobs that they do get are less qualified and lower paid. That may be uncomfortable, and people may rail against it and complain about it and not like it, but it is reality. They will have to face up to it. Where does that bring us?

Mr Fee:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Campbell:


Mr Fee:

The report is extremely detailed. Will the Member read out from the report that he has in front of him all the figures for all the classifications? Will he point out that the trick in the figures is that as Protestant representation decreases, the figure for non-returned or non-determined background increases in direct proportion?

Mr Campbell:

I thank the hon Member for that inaccurate intervention. The Equality Commission has actually said that, over the years, the non-determined are decreasing in number, not increasing.

I want to come to my conclusion. There have been many figures, and I appreciate that those who have not got an intense interest might be somewhat confused, but I have tried to cut through the confusion and use these statistics to show that the myth and the campaign of nonsense is just that. It is utter nonsense.

In conclusion, this report proves three things. First, it proves that Protestants are slightly under-represented in the number of applicants to the public service. This cannot be refuted. Secondly, Protestants are even more under-represented in the numbers appointed to the positions for which they have applied. Again, this is irrefutable. To say otherwise is to deny the statistics contained in the report. Thirdly, Protestants are losing out in the higher grade of classification in the public sector, and, again, this cannot be refuted.

That brings us to what we have come to know as the equality agenda. Many people, both in this House and outside it, have campaigned on an equality agenda and have emphasised the need for equality. This infers that there is inequality at the moment. These statistics show that there is inequality but that it is suffered by the Unionist community. The Protestants are the people who are under-represented in the public sector and this needs to be addressed immediately by the Equality Commission. It must devote sufficient resources to an investigation of this problem as a matter of the utmost urgency.

Madam Deputy Speaker:

As a great number of Members have indicated that they wish to speak, I am forced to advise the House that the time allocated to each Member will be reduced to five minutes.

Dr Birnie:

Madam Deputy Speaker, at least you are practising rigid equality by reducing everyone equally.

I too welcome the Equality Commission’s tenth annual monitoring report. I will make some important statements of principle at the outset. My party stands full square on the principle of equality of opportunity — accepting the principle of the best man or woman for the job. The 1998 Northern Ireland Act, in the relevant sections, discussed equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity need not mean — and this is a crucial distinction — equality of outcome. This has been the subject of much ideological and political debate in many countries throughout the last century. This was a debate between liberal democracy, where value is ultimately placed on equality of opportunity and freedom, and totalitarian systems of politics, where attempts were made in vain to have everyone on the same level.

Public policy designed to create equality of opportunity should be directed towards individuals rather than geographical regions. It is individuals who are poor, unemployed or disadvantaged, not patches of ground. The key thing in the labour market , which is the specific point of this motion, is recruitment on merit. It is worth noting that even if recruitment is on merit — where the best person gets the job in every case — this could still be compatible with an unemployment rate differential between the two main sections of our community, or indeed with perceived imbalances in the percentage composition of employment in given enterprises. Chapter 5 of the report, which the proposer of the motion emphasised, shows the figures for recruitment inflow into jobs. We can see that in 1999 48% of all public sector appointments went to Catholics and 46% of private sector appointments likewise.

In both cases this represented more than the relevant share of the available labour force. This does not, of itself, prove discrimination or unfairness, but it is at least a cause for concern. It may be argued from some of the Benches that, in some sense, positive discrimination is justifiable to rectify a perceived historical wrong. However, there are at least three main responses to such an argument.

The first is a historical reply. How much actual and systematic discrimination against Catholics was there under the old Stormont Administration? There has been a huge debate on that issue among historians, economists, sociologists and others, and the result is by no means clear. Secondly, there is a moral reply. One should not try to put right one wrong by making another one today. Thirdly and lastly, there is a legal response. Positive discrimination is plainly illegal under current fair employment law. Where it is happening, that is wrong, and it is a legitimate cause for concern on the part of the Assembly.

Given the specific evidence in chapter 5 of the report, which was highlighted by the proposer of the motion, and given the evidence on recruitment flows, I support this motion. Thank you.

Ms Lewsley:

I oppose this motion, and in doing so I will attempt to dispel the myths surrounding equality in employment in Northern Ireland — myths, sadly, that Mr Campbell seems intent on repeating today. In his motion, Mr Campbell spuriously attempts to imply that Catholics have somehow received special treatment in Northern Ireland at the expense of Protestants. That is not only untrue, it is demonstrably untrue.

A myth linked to equality in employment is the claim that all new jobs go to Catholics. While the net increase in jobs is similar to the increase in the number of Catholics in the workforce, this in no way means that all new jobs have actually gone to Catholics. There is absolutely no evidence of discrimination in the jobs’ market. This can be illustrated by looking at the applicant to appointee rates. In 1999, 44·7% of public sector applicants were Catholic, and 44·4% of these were appointed; in the private sector Catholic applicants were 46·5%, with 46·2% appointees. It is interesting to note that the job applicants tend to be young, and the proportion of Catholics among the young is higher than among the workforce as a whole. Also, there are more Catholics who are unemployed and, therefore, applying for jobs and, as should be expected, getting jobs. The main problem is the under-representation in the Senior Civil Service where, of 232 staff, only 50 are Catholics.

Even if the Civil Service’s own targets are realised, which is unlikely, the figure would only rise to 30% by 2006. The SDLP favours setting up a review in this area to see how progress can be speeded up. There is also acute under-representation of Catholics in security-related occupations. The Catholic population is 42% of the workforce. When Senior Civil Service posts and security occupations are excluded, that percentage rises to 44% — slightly higher — but most of those jobs are lower paid ones held by women. There is a higher proportion of women in the workforce, 42%. It is to be expected that if Catholics will not apply for security-related jobs, then they will apply for the lower paid jobs. The SDLP has, therefore, called for the new police service to be subject to quotas on recruitment, and for it to be possible to keep the quota in place for more than 10 years. The Government has agreed to this.

We have called for a guarantee that the quota will be kept in place for 10 years, and that it will apply to police support staff. As the Police Bill stands, it will only apply where there are 10 similar posts available at the same time. This will never happen. The SDLP agrees with the Equality Commission that it should apply where there are two similar posts.

7.00 pm

The main function of fair employment legislation is to eliminate discrimination in the employment and dismissal of employees. Not one single element of fair employment law can be held up by Mr Campbell to demonstrate that such laws discriminate against Protestants. Put simply, fair employment laws are religion neutral. They favour neither Catholic, Protestant, Sikh nor Muslim, so reform of the fair employment laws is quite unnecessary.

If, as Mr Campbell claims, there is an under-representation of Protestants, perfectly adequate measures already exist to address that, the same measures that would be applied if there were an under-representation of Catholics or of any other religion in Northern Ireland. Fair employment legislation does allow for some affirmative action to be taken in order to achieve a balanced workforce: encouraging applicants from under-represented communities; revising redundancy policies; providing training for the long-term unemployed; and so on. However, none of those measures discriminates. The principle of employing the best person to do the job still holds true.

Mr Campbell has previously cited over-representation of Catholics on Newry and Mourne District Council and Down District Council. These councils have taken affirmative action measures to redress this imbalance. I note that he failed to mention those councils which are not dealing with this issue, for example, Castlereagh Borough Council.

The Equality Commission was established as part of the Good Friday Agreement, and it espoused equality for all. I propose that we do not support this motion.

Mr C Murphy:

Go raibh maith agat. I sometimes wonder whether it is worth replying to motions from what can only be described as the flat-earth society — people who attempt to ignore all historical evidence — [Interruption]

Are you going to make me sit down?

Mr Campbell:

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We heard very clearly on this side of the House what appeared to be a threat from the hon Member, Conor Murphy. He asked someone on this side of the House if he was going to make him sit down. In everyday parlance outside the House that sort of language is normally associated with aggressive, corner-boy tactics and a punch-up.

Madam Deputy Speaker:

I am not aware that such a remark was made. I will check Hansard and come back.

Mr C Murphy:

DUP Members would recognise corner-boy tactics since it is chiefly they who use them in the Chamber.

Anyway, with regard to the motion from the "flat-earth society", Mr Campbell’s argument about applicants and appointees asks us to ignore all the discrimination of the past 80 years and just deal with today — forget about everything that has gone before, just deal with today. It also ignores the fact that the age group most likely to be applying for jobs at the moment is different from that of what he refers to as the overall population. I think that he is referring to the 1991 census. He also asks us to ignore the recent statistics which show that Catholics in that age group are better qualified. Finally, he asks us to ignore the Equality Commission’s report and its interpretation of that report and deal with the Gregory Campbell interpretation instead. The Equality Commission has said that one of its key challenges is the continuing under-representation of Catholics at senior grades in the Civil Service. Mr Campbell obviously knows the report better than the commission does.

Overall, Protestant male employment has gone down by 0·7%, and Protestant female employment has stayed the same. The only statistics that I could see that reflected any of that was in the section on standard occupational classification six, which deals with personal and protective services and employment in the security industry. Indeed, Catholics only make up 27·4% of the employees in this area. A possible reason for the marginal downturn of Protestant employment in this sector may be that a large number of RUC officers are availing themselves of early retirement, in comparison with the number being recruited.

[Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr McClelland) in the Chair]

The argument has been made that the representation of Catholics in the workforce in the public sector now reflects their proportion of the economically active population. There are a number of points to be made: this excludes the security-related occupations; it ignores the fact that Catholics are employed in the lower levels of the public sector; it ignores the large numbers who are economically inactive; and it ignores the fact that a younger Catholic workforce is coming on stream, while the Protestant workforce reflects an ageing population.

The report does not examine where the minute increases in Catholic employment or the minute decreases in Protestant employment are the result of natural wastage in the workforce, for example, where more Protestants are retiring than Catholics. The report needs a broader analysis of occupational classification such as tenure or duration of employment to get a real picture of the employment differential. The 1997 labour force survey states that the unemployment rate for Catholics is 12% as opposed to 5% for Protestants. In my constituency of Newry and Armagh it is 15% for Catholics as opposed to 2·9% for Protestants. The agency describes the unemployment rate for Catholics as being substantially higher than for Protestants, but says that the Government are committed to narrowing the gap. It is worrying that some of the recent attempts to undermine the unemployment differential as a measure of disadvantage and discrimination have come from the Office of the First and the Deputy First Minister. We will continue to be very vigilant about this.

I hope that the Equality Commission ignored the attacks on the unemployment differential as a measure of disadvantage and discrimination —

Junior Minister (Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers) (Mr Haughey):

Can you give us an example of such a recent attempt that has come from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers?

Mr C Murphy:

During the last debate on the equality scheme, your fellow Junior Minister attacked the unemployment differential as being a proper measure —

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Please address your remarks to the Chair.

Junior Minister (Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers) (Mr Nesbitt):

Will the Member take a point of information? It is not a point of order.

Mr C Murphy:

I will if the Chair will allow me time to finish my contribution.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I will allow you time to finish your contribution, but I remind you to address your remarks to the Chair.

Mr C Murphy:

You did not remind the Junior Minister to do the same.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

The Junior Minister was asking if you would give way, and he was entitled to address you directly. In other instances remarks should be addressed to the Chair.

Mr C Murphy:

Further to that point or order, Mr Speaker. The Junior Minister asked me a question, and it would be sensible to address my response to him.

Mr Nesbitt:

I did not ask him to answer a question; I asked him if he would take a point of information, not a point of order. Will he take a point of information?

Mr C Murphy:

I do not have the time left, but I am sure that we will continue to have this argument. There is a concerted campaign in Unionism to undermine the unemployment differential as a measure of discrimination, and we will continue to be vigilant.

Mr Nesbitt:

Let me put it on the record. What I said last time I will stand over from a statistical point of view, from a labour-market point of view. I was not trying to undermine any party or any individual. I stick to the objective statistical fact about unemployment.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I am sorry, Mr Nesbitt, but that is not a point of order.

Mr C Murphy:

Thank you for further time, Mr Deputy Speaker. As you quite rightly pointed out, it was not a point of order.

I conclude my remarks by expressing the hope that the Equality Commission will ignore this and continue to deal with the urgent matters in its remit.

Mr A Maginness:

An analysis of the report of the Equality Commission shows that over a period of 10 years very significant progress was made on the historic imbalance in the employment for Catholics.

That is something to be welcomed rather than criticised or belittled. It is progress that has been made in our society, and it is important for us to reflect on the fact that progress has been made since the introduction of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989. The preceding Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976 had very little power, and between that period and 1990 the situation for Catholics at work did not improve very much.

This shows the effect of the determination of the Fair Employment Agency and the Fair Employment Commission to tackle the problem of employment for Catholics since that time, and that is something to be celebrated rather than criticised. In some areas there are still significant deficiencies. If one looks, for example, at the heavy engineering industry in Belfast, one can see considerable under-representation of Catholics. The same is true in the security forces and in the higher levels of the Civil Service. This motion is trying to cherry-pick one aspect to show that the Protestant community is suffering from some form of reverse discrimination. That is absolute nonsense, and when one looks at the figures, and at the totality of this report, one can see quite clearly that that is not happening.

Let me take issue with Mr Campbell, who talked about "the simple cliché of Catholic unemployment". How insulting can one get? Anybody who is unemployed suffers. Nobody is unemployed because he wants to be, and anyone who is unemployed is suffering serious disadvantage. To belittle people and to belittle that section of the community and refer to them as a simple cliché is outrageous. For any responsible Member of this House to use that sort of language to insult people is something to be deplored by all Members of this House. I hope that Mr Campbell will withdraw that remark, because it is a searing insult to people and seriously damaging.

When one looks at the overall situation in Northern Ireland and at the continuing problem of the over-representation of Catholics within the unemployed sector, one has to address that and ask why we have this historic problem. I believe that new TSN is one way of addressing it. There is no point in our coming to the House and bemoaning the problem — we have to have policies that will direct the attention of the Administration and public services to eradicating it. That is something with which we can all agree, because there would be a net benefit for the whole community. I look forward to the day when there is full employment in this community and when this unseemly scrabble over statistics on imbalances in the workplace is finally put to rest.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Mr Maginness, your time is up.

Mrs E Bell:

I welcome both the report and the debate. Even though we tend to disagree, it is healthy that we discuss these important matters. In an earlier debate I stated that equality means different things to different people. I can now say the same thing about the statistics in the Equality Commission’s report. Statistics can be interpreted in many ways depending on the reader and what they wish to extract from them. Indeed, as I am sure everyone knows, Mark Twain referred to them as

"lies, damned lies and statistics".

For the benefit of others in the House that should be that the Devil can quote the Scripture for his own.

7.15 pm

The report was actually quite heartening, particularly from the point of view that jobs in all sectors appear to be more accessible to all job seekers in Northern Ireland. Concerns on the issues of gender and religious persuasion have been, and are continuing to be, addressed. One of my principal concerns on the issue of monitoring is that it does not seem to take into account that it is still very difficult, if not impossible, to employ people in areas of Northern Ireland where they do not feel comfortable. Some people, because of gender, religion, race or ability, do not feel comfortable and perhaps do not feel safe, not just in the workplace itself, but also in travelling to and from their place of work.

If we examine the tables in chapters three, four and five of the report, which outline the composition of authorities, public and private sector bodies and appointments to them, they confirm the fact that in some areas the situation somehow determines the make-up of the workforce. We must try to read such a report objectively.

I have also been particularly heartened by the increase in female employment, not only in the traditional service areas, but also in public sector management. I have examined the tables and figures given in the report, particularly those relating to the public sector, which appear to cause Mr Campbell concern. I do not see any substantial evidence to suggest that his views are completely right. The report states that an increase in the participation of Catholics in the workforce was approximately half of one percent each year over the ten years of the monitoring. I do not think that that is too worrying.

Protestants continue to be fairly represented in Northern Ireland’s workforce and still find themselves in the majority in many sectors. The statistics, of course, do not show an increase in the percentage representation of Catholics in various sectors. However, after years of gross under-representation of Catholic people in our workforce, at least progress has been made towards achieving a just and balanced situation. Therefore, these figures should be warmly welcomed instead of being used to set off alarm bells. However, I say to Mr Campbell, if alarm bells are set off, the Equality Commission should be asked to account for that. Mr Campbell is actually implying that there is — positive though it may be — religious discrimination against Protestants. As another Member stated, this is illegal and it should be dealt with. I hope that Mr Campbell will be taking that matter to the Commission.

All in all, I am glad to see that in both the public and private sectors there is redress in the balance of Catholic workers. It is noted that there is still concern with respect to the percentage representation of Catholics in the security sector, but let us hope that this too will be reduced and not necessarily through quotas.

There should never be tokenism of a religious or a gender nature, and I think the report shows that that is not the case. The Civil Service, as has been mentioned, also needs to look at the gender and religious background of its senior grades. I hope, as a member of the Commission, that all our recruitment procedures will be open, transparent and accessible and fair to all.

Beneficial as these statistics may be in monitoring Northern Ireland’s workforce, I long to see the day that the focus will be taken away from whether an employee is Catholic or Protestant; male or female; able or disabled, or is of any particular race. Instead, I hope that jobs are awarded to candidates on merit alone. I hope that one day a person will be capable of proving him or herself the best candidate for a job just for being the person they are, and not for what the statistics say they should be. I cannot support the motion.

Mr Weir:

I support the motion. When the Government are faced with the issue of equality they can take one of two routes. Either they can support equality of opportunity for all, which is the correct route, or they can try to eliminate the unemployment differential between the two main communities. That is clearly the route which the SDLP is going down in supporting quotas in the RUC. Unfortunately, that has been the net effect of the fair employment legislation over the last 25 years.

A Member:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Weir:

Unfortunately, I have only five minutes, so I shall not give way.

If one compares employment statistics from 1971 onwards, one will find that the Catholic share of the workforce in 1971 was about 29%. It is now nearly 40%. The number of Protestants in employment now compared with 1971 is down by roughly 15,000. The number of Catholics in employment has risen by about 84,000. Yet in spite of this large increase, in both actual and percentage terms, a differential gap remains with regard to the number of Catholics employed. As has been claimed by some other Members, such a gap does not mean that there is employment inequality, for while the Catholic percentage share of employment has increased throughout that period, it has constantly been chasing a moving target, particularly because of birth-rate differentials and other factors.

I also question whether the figure of 39·6% for the Catholic share of the workforce is correct, since it is based on public-sector employees and those in private-sector firms employing more than 25 people. Indeed, if one compares the 1991 figure with the census figure, one will find that about 170,000 people are not included. These, generally speaking, are people employed in small firms. Figures suggest that they have a higher Catholic recruitment rate.

I should like to move to the substance of the motion. The statistics tell us a number of things. First, in public-sector recruitment figures for nine of the last 10 years, the percentage of Catholics appointed was higher than their share of the workforce, and in the one year when it was not, it was more or less the same. In the private sector, this was true for each of the last 10 years.

Let us break that down using another statistic. I have carried out a little research on this. There were 37 public bodies in 1997 with a higher percentage of Catholic employees than their share of the workforce, 41 with a higher percentage of Protestants than one might expect. Using these statistics, how have they performed since 1997? Of the 37 public-sector bodies with a disproportionately high number of Roman Catholics, in 24 cases the percentage of Catholic employment has actually risen. In only 10 of them has it gone down.

Of the 41 public bodies with a disproportionately high number of Protestants, the percentage of Catholics in 1999 rose in 29 and decreased in nine. There were 23 bodies with a disproportionately high number of Roman Catholics in 1991. Of those, 17 had actually increased their percentage of Roman Catholics by 1999. Of the five where that percentage decreased, in only one case was it by more than 2%.

The same can be seen on the Protestant side, where 32 public bodies had a disproportionately high number of Protestants. The Catholic percentage has increased in 27 of them and decreased in only three. We are seeing a two-tier reaction on fair employment. Where there is a disproportionately high number of Catholics in the public sector, that number is increasing. Where there is a disproportionately high number of Protestants, it is decreasing. Those statistics clearly show that there is discrimination.

With regard to the broad sectors of health and education, where there has been a disproportionately high number of Catholics, that percentage has increased. In the other sectors where there is a disproportionately high number of Protestants, it has decreased. This clearly shows discrimination.

I urge Members to support the motion.

Mr Dallat:

Many years ago, when the SDLP campaigned for funding for the Fair Employment Agency it was very much opposed by the DUP. I am delighted to see so many copies of the equal opportunities report tonight — that is progress.

I once read a paperback called ‘How to Lie with Statistics’. It is an absolute must for the politician who wants to make a case out of nothing. I threw it away because I want to live in the real world — not the world of make-believe.

For years I followed with interest Mr Campbell’s claims of discrimination in his native city, and I often wondered if he was really genuine in his quest for fair employment. My wishes were granted when he got the DUP nomination for East Derry — mind you, the local papers are still talking about the statistics for that. He won the seat, and I was glad. This was because I hoped he would bring with him the strong anti-discriminatory principles he has been telling us about all these years. But not a bit of it. Indeed, I suggest he would defend to the death the high moral ground of those employers in his new constituency who have serious problems redressing the imbalance in their workforces but stubbornly refuse to carry in their advertisements the ice-breaker "We are equal opportunities employers".

That is the problem with statistics. You can add them, multiply them, or do what you like with them. You can say the tank is half empty or half full, depending on whether you are a pessimist or an optimist. Unfortunately, Catholic male unemployment is still twice as high as that for Protestants. Over the last ten years the figures in the public service have not changed significantly. There is a slight fall in Protestant representation, matched by a slight increase in Catholic percentages — that is all. In local government, taking an average of all 26 councils, 63.4% of all employees are still designated as Protestant. In several categories Catholics are particularly under-represented, especially in the higher grades. In the four worst councils, the average percentage of Catholic employment is less than 8%.

Nevertheless, there has been improvement, and all right-thinking people should be encouraged by that progress because in the end every one is a winner. When genuine equality has been established, the old system of begging for a job on the basis of religion, rather than ability and skills to do the job, will be gone, and this country will have come of age. Fair employment legislation is no longer peculiar to Northern Ireland. We may have pioneered it out of necessity, but it is now common practice for countries all over the world to monitor performance figures, not only on grounds of religion but on gender, age, disability and all the other categories listed in the Equality Commission’s report. That is nothing more than common sense and good practice. The figures Mr Campbell quotes are cleverly selected to make a case were there is none, but I am not suggesting that he has been reading my book "How to Lie with Statistics". However, he could well have written it.

Fair employment is still an emotive term. It whips up fears and encourages prejudices. Fair employment legislation is just as important for the Protestant community as it is for the Catholic community. All persons are entitled to have their rights protected. Let us work the legislation by keeping our attention focused on real politics. Let us work together in harmony so that new high paid, skilled jobs are created and no one is unemployed or made to hold down jobs which require lower skills than they have. That is the work faced by politicians in the future, and that is what we should be about, rather than living in the past, which failed everyone and benefited no one. No one in their right mind condones discrimination against Protestants; there is nothing to be had in reversing the roles.

Unfortunately, the motion is divisive and that is regrettable because it denies the Assembly the opportunity to speak with one voice on a subject that is common to everyone. The SDLP in no way condones discrimination against any group of people and we are seriously concerned that Mr Campbell will be successful in creating a chill factor among Protestants. That is precisely what happened in Down Council where a DUP member made claims of discrimination where there were none and created a problem as a result of his claims. I am totally against the motion, and I am sorry it was discussed here at all.

Ms Gildernew:

Go raibh maith agat. I have listened with interest to the contributions made here on the issue of equality of employment, and I have to say that if this issue were not so serious, comments made by those on the Unionist benches would be laughable. For eighty years, since the inception of this state, discrimination has been carried out wholesale on the Nationalist community. For years, your name and the school you attended were more of an indication of your ability to do a job than your qualifications. When hundreds of young Catholics boarded boats and planes in search of employment, the shipyard in Belfast was employing men on the basis that their father, brother or uncle had worked there before them.

Now, after years of work in the community, intense lobbying by Nationalist representatives and the Irish Government, and international pressure, due in no small part to the MacBride principles, we have finally got legislation in place to try to address this. However, there is no getting away from the fact that Catholics are still more likely to be unemployed than Protestants in the Six Counties.

We are now hearing about studies being carried by Unionist advisors who are attempting to redefine the criteria for ranking deprivation. Attempts are being made to devise a formula to find the pockets of deprivation complained of by the UUP and DUP. The consequence of this will be that pockets of deprivation will be given ranking equivalence to ward upon ward of deprived Nationalist and Republican communities.

7.30 pm

Mr Kennedy:

Will the Member give way?

Ms Gildernew:

No, I do not have enough time. Everyone knows that the argument that the UUP and DUP have made over pockets of deprivation amidst affluence having some sort of equivalence to wards of multiple deprivation has no theoretical basis in social science. However, it is likely to be presented in such a way as to suggest it does. This attempt to equalise or neutralise deprivation fails when one examines statistical evidence in constituencies like Fermanagh and South Tyrone, where Catholic unemployment stands at 13.3% compared to 3.9% Protestant unemployment. Republicans have concerns that the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is not seriously addressing equality matters. Indeed, it is not just Republicans but many Nationalists who regard high ranking civil servants and advisors as people who wield too much influence over the future of the equality agenda, especially when one of those advisors has already stated his ‘religious blind’ approach when dealing with equality matters. This approach is in direct conflict with affirmative action programmes, action plans and timetables.

Mr Kennedy:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it right for a Member of this House to impugn the integrity of a civil servant or anyone else engaged in the work of government?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

That is not a point of order.

Ms Gildernew:

There is therefore a strong argument for the Equality Unit to become the subject of the closest scrutiny possible. [Interruption]

Mr Kennedy:

I question your ruling.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

You cannot question a ruling from the Chair. You will not question — [Interruption] Sit down, Mr Kennedy. [Interruption] Order. Sit down, Mr Kennedy.

Ms Gildernew:

Go raibh maith agat, Deputy Speaker. Examining the latest labour force surveys — [Interruption]

Mr Kennedy:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Mr Kennedy, I advise you now that if you do not sit down I will have you named and removed from the Chamber.

Mr Beggs:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Will you refer the matter to Mr Speaker for consultation as to whether it was appropriate as a point of order?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

As you know, Mr Beggs, it is for the person in the Chair now, and no one else.

Ms Gildernew:

Examining latest labour force survey reports, which are the most recent available statistic denoting long-term unemployment, one finds that the survey for 1997 revealed an alarming differential of 2.9% for Catholic males when compared to Protestant males. Such a figure was the highest differential since the 1960’s. Furthermore, page 9 of the most recently published labour force survey report states quite clearly that Catholic males have been typically twice as likely as Protestant males to be unemployed. Yet, we hear Mr Campbell refer to the worsening under-representation of the Protestant community, particularly relating to the public sector.

Since this statelet was artificially created, its over-representation by the Protestant community has been well documented. The statelet has been policed by one section of the community, and has also been serviced by that same Protestant community in the Civil Service. Therefore, one of the many problems that the Equality Commission needs to address, urgently, is the religious and gender composition of the Civil Service.

Attention must be given to the fact that there is still an under-representation of Catholics throughout the service, especially at the higher levels. There is a need for an urgent review of its compositional make-up. While noting how few Catholics are employed, consideration also needs to be given to how few women are employed, and how few of them hold managerial and professional positions in the standard occupational classification ranking.

If such data were examined, Mr Campbell would learn that it is the under-representation of the Catholic community and the over-representation of the Protestant community that must be dealt with. Sinn Féin asks the Equality Commission to address this matter urgently.

I do not support the motion. Go raibh maith agat.

Mr Nesbitt:

I have listened carefully to Members on both sides of the House, and I would like to begin by making some general comments.

First of all, equality is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. It must be applied to both communities and in an even-handed way. By recruiting only on merit, we are doing just that. The right man or woman should secure the job solely on that basis.

The Equality Commission’s report, its tenth, makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of what is a very sensitive issue for both the Catholic and Protestant communities. Is there or is there not discrimination? Is there or is there not fair employment? Is there or is there not fair promotion? Is there or is there not fair recruitment? These are very sensitive issues to both communities. Therefore, as I said on 6 June when I last spoke on the subject, I will measure my words carefully. I will endeavour, Mr Deputy Speaker, to stand over every word I say.

As always with statistics, they need to be read and interpreted very carefully and not quoted ambiguously. There are structural changes we must be aware of — for example, the age structure of the population. There is a higher proportion of the younger age group in the Catholic community. Also, immigration, emigration and birth rates are different with respect to the Catholic and Protestant communities. These factors must be considered in the analysis of the statistics. The key test is, as noted, applicants and appointees, and how they move into employment. They may come from the unemployed or from the inactive population. They may be students or mothers who were not working and now seek work. Those entering employment come from different sources. Therefore, it is never easy to draw conclusions about the differential aspects of unemployment and about whether there is fairness in employment. Everything must be carefully analysed.

I mentioned the unemployment differential. I am conscious that Mr Campbell refers to the under-representation of Protestants, the corollary of that being the vast increase in work for Catholics that is seen to be happening in Northern Ireland. I want to make it clear: there are more Catholics unemployed. If more Catholics are unemployed there is more disadvantage. If there are more Catholics unemployed and they are all seeking work and are all equally qualified, and if we are working on the merit principle then it follows that, on a proportionate basis, more Catholics would be getting jobs than Protestants. That is not detrimental to the merit principle or to equality of opportunity, and it is not unfair. Therefore, we must be very careful in our analysis of the statistics. I will not say any more about the unemployment differential, and I have to tell Mr Conor Murphy that I will stand over the comments I have made on the subject.

Let me now deal with the point in the motion about the worsening under-representation of the Protestant community. As I said, statistics are to be interpreted carefully. Therefore, I cannot support Mr Campbell’s motion. In my view, the jury is out on it.

Let me just give one or two statistics. The Protestant workforce is 60.4%, but 58% of the available workforce is from the Protestant community. Therefore, the proportion in work is higher than that available for work from the Protestant community. The private sector employs 60.2% of Protestants, but the public sector employs 61%. Remember, Protestants make up 58% of those available for work. I know Mr Campbell quotes Government statistics, but there is a difficulty with Government statistics. Government statistics from the Department of Finance and Personnel state that the number of applicants from 1996 to 1998 from the Protestant community was 46.7% while 51.5% of those appointed were Protestant. These statistics are not exactly the same as those in the monitoring report from the Fair Employment Commission or the Equal Opportunities Commission.

We have two sets of statistics that say a slightly different thing. Let me just give you one of the reasons for the difference. The Equality Commission’s report stated that if one person applied ten times for a job, it would count as one application. However, the Department of Finance and Personnel, if one person applied ten times, would count it as ten applications — a totally different basis for the statistics, yet both are, to use Mr Campbell’s words, "Government statistics".

Yes, there are statistics and selective statistics. Mr Campbell referred to health and education. You could equally refer to the Equality Commission’s report on district councils. According to page 54, 56.8% of the district councils were Protestant, as were 58.1% of those who were appointed, so there are statistics and statistics. I cannot support the precise wording of Mr Campbell’s motion. It criticises the worsening under-representation, and the jury is still out on that.

Mr Hussey:

May I have an interpretation of Standing Order 58(1)(e), which refers to any Member who

"uses unparliamentary words which he/she refuses to withdraw"?

Is it in order for a Member of the House to impugn the integrity of hard-working civil servants?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I will ensure that Hansard is examined, and I will notify the House if unparliamentary language has been used.

Mr Hussey:

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. If it is found that unparliamentary language was not used, will it be in order for the Deputy Speaker to apologise to the Member who he assumed was out of order?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

As far as I am concerned, the Member was out of order. I have made it clear to the House that I will ensure that Hansard is examined. If unparliamentary language was used, that information will be conveyed to the House.

Before I call Mr Haughey, may I ask that Members, whether Ministers or otherwise, address their remarks to the Chair and not to other Members.

7.45 pm

Mr Haughey:

I will endeavour to bear in mind what you have said, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I could not agree more with the comment of my Colleague Mr Dallat that he found it extremely difficult to keep patience with this sort of nonsense. Mr Campbell endeavoured to give the House some facts. Let me give you some facts that derive directly from the statistics. Protestants make up 58% of the available workforce. Catholics make up 42%. Overall, the Protestant share of the workforce is currently 60·4%. That is 2·4% higher than their numbers in the available workforce. In the private sector, Protestants make up 60·2% of the workforce, which is 2·2% higher than their share of the available workforce. In the public sector, they make up 61%. In the Northern Ireland Civil Service between 1996 and 1998, 46·7% of applications were from Protestants, and that resulted in their getting 51·5% of the appointments.

Mr Morrow:

The Member is supposed to address the Chair.

Mr Haughey:

Is a point of order being made, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Mr Deputy Speaker:


Mr Haughey:

Catholics made 44·7% of the applications and were awarded 42·8% of the appointments. In the higher reaches of the Civil Service there are 232 staff, of whom 50 are Catholics: 21·5% of the workforce. Only one Northern Ireland Civil Service category has an under-representation of the Protestant community. That is the 114 careers officers. When monitoring began in 1990, Catholics made up 34·9% of the workforce. In 1999 they were assessed at 39·6%. That is an encouraging increase, but it still falls short of the 42% of the available workforce who are Catholic. There is still work to be done.

Whereas fair employment legislation is based on the merit principle at the point of employment, and redress is possible through the courts, affirmative action is also possible. We in the SDLP would have liked to see a great deal more of that, but as certain people will have learned over the last 30 years, you cannot get all that you want. The affirmative action that we would have liked to see does not extend to the sort of measures that I thought —wrongly, I am afraid — I had in front of me.

Moving on, I agree emphatically with my Colleague Alban Maginness about TSN. Research indicates that a number of factors cause relative deprivation in the Catholic community and give rise to greater difficulty in gaining employment. The Catholic community has a younger age structure. There is reluctance on the part of Catholics to seek employment in security-related occupations. There is a higher proportion of Catholics in the lower socio-economic groups where unemployment is highest. A higher proportion of Catholic than Protestant families have large numbers of children. That is a very telling point. In both communities, families with large numbers of children are more prone to unemployment.

That brings me to an important point about new TSN. New TSN targets social disadvantage. We hope that that will lead to an erosion of the differentials in unemployment between the two communities, not because it discriminates in favour of the Catholic community but because it targets social disadvantage. Targeting social disadvantage helps those, both Protestant and Catholic, who happen to be socially disadvantaged, and therefore it is a non-discriminatory attack on the reasons for the differential in unemployment.

I have very little time left, but I would like to ask Mr Campbell a question. I hope he will answer. I do not want him to evade it. There are people in the DUP, and further afield, who believe that Protestants are currently being unfairly treated in the labour market. There are many people in my party, and in other parties, who believe that there is a continuing problem with fair employment and that the difficulties lie disproportionately on the Catholic side of the community.

Can we agree on one simple conclusion from all of this — that there is a difficulty with fair employment? That says to me that we need the toughest and the strongest possible legislation to outlaw discrimination in employment. Does Mr Campbell agree with me on that? We need the toughest and the strongest possible Government agencies to deal with the problem of inequality in education and with discrimination where it exists. We need to monitor the whole situation so that the Government can take appropriate measures. Predictably, but regrettably, Sinn Féin Members tried to lay blame on the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in relation to these matters. I regret that their concern about fair employment did not extend to their Colleagues —

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Mr Haughey, withdraw your remark.

Mr Haughey:

who over the years waged an economic war which disproportionately affected employment in the Nationalist community.

Mr Molloy rose. [Interruption]

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Order. [Interruption]

Order, Mr Molloy. [Interruption] Mr Molloy, I am on my feet, which means that you will not be on yours. Mr Molloy, I am on my feet, and you will not be on yours. [Interruption] You will sit down, Mr Molloy. [Interruption] Mr Molloy, you will sit down. [Interruption] Order, Mr Molloy. [Interruption] Sit down, Mr Molloy.

I call Mr Campbell.

Mr Campbell:

I think that a period of cool, calm reflection is required, and I hope I will be able to bring something of that to the debate. I will try to deal with some of the issues that were raised.

In dealing with the factual position underlining and underpinning the motion, I had hoped that those who oppose it would have had some substance to their argument. I had hoped that they might not revert to hyperbole, to emotive phrases and to simplistic catchphrases. I had hoped that would be the case, but I am afraid to say that I have been disappointed. However, when a community and a series of public representatives are faced with cold, hard facts that they may want to quibble about, that they may want to dodge, that they may want to try to avoid or evade and cannot, then they have to resort to clichés. I had hoped that they might actually engage in the substance of the debate, but sadly, all too often this was not the case. Ms Lewsley made reference to the numbers of unemployed, and she is right of course. Proportionately there are more unemployed Roman Catholics than Protestants, but there is an underlying assumption that the 125,000 people who applied for jobs in the public sector all came from the ranks of the unemployed. Why should people assume that this is the case? Of course it is not the case. A sizeable number of them may be, but not all of those applying for jobs in the public sector are unemployed. To imply that the unemployment ratio should be used as a benchmark against which the numbers of public sector applicants are assessed really is a nonsense. I hope I have dealt with that.

I am not going to give credibility to those who represent terrorism by naming them, but several Nationalist Members had the breathtaking hypocrisy to mention that the security-related sector has to be taken into account — I thought they would have avoided it like the plague. These people, who for 30 years have advised Catholics not to take jobs in the security-related sector, are now saying that Catholics are under-represented in the security-related field.

Mr Hussey:

Does the Member agree that Catholics were not just so advised but intimidated and physically abused?

Mr Campbell:

That is what I meant by "breathtaking hypocrisy". They were advised not to take positions in the security sector, and the small number from the Roman Catholic community who did were intimidated. Members, some of whom are associated with the organisation that did the intimidating, are now getting to their feet and saying that there are very few Catholics in the security sector. There are very few Catholics in that sector because their affiliates shot them when they did work in it.

The SDLP does not escape blame. Since 1972 it has advocated that the Catholic community should not take up employment with the RUC, the UDR or the Royal Irish Regiment, yet many SDLP Members have asked tonight, as a defence, about the security-related sector. The position in the security-related sector would have been much better if the SDLP had advocated that its community should join. They are responsible for the under-representation of Catholics in the security-related sector, although not as much as the IRA, which shot people when they did come forward from the Catholic community.

I thank Mr Weir for his reference to the differential gap. At the outset I referred to the cliché about Catholics being more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. Certain people seem to have a blind spot, because statistics available in the Irish Republic show that Catholics in Counties Donegal and Monaghan are three times more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. Is that because of discrimination? If it is, what are the Dublin Government doing about it? That situation cannot be because of a Government agency, a conspiracy or a sense of paranoia in the establishment in Dublin to deprive the good Catholics of Monaghan and Donegal of employment. The reasons for such a situation in the Irish Republic need to be addressed.

References were made to the principle of equality, and I was amazed at the junior Minister, Mr Nesbitt, referring to equality being at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. If equality is at the heart of the agreement then we will see within a week the terms of that equality. If the Unionist community is demonstrated to be opposed to this agreement, and if a greater number of Unionists is against this agreement than for it, then there will have to be a fundamental reassessment if equality is at the heart of it. However, that is a matter for next week, and I will not proceed down that avenue.

The other junior Minister, Mr Haughey, referred to the overall workforce breakdown, and my concluding remarks will deal with that.

8.00 pm

It is somewhat confusing for the average layperson hearing these figures being bandied about to come to terms with the overall principle underpinning the motion. That is why I attempted to keep it as general as possible and why I studiously avoided being selective, despite the accusations. If we look at tables 41 and 42 on pages 47 and 48 of the tenth annual monitoring report, we see that 55% of public-sector applications are from Protestants, but only 52% of all appointees are Protestant. People can avoid, evade or dodge that. They can try to get under it, climb over it, or get round it, but they will have to face up to it eventually. That is equality at work.

The Protestant community is demanding true equality. As of the tenth annual monitoring report, it does not have that. People can try to take us up a sidetrack or bring us into bypath meadow, but they cannot evade the central issue — the Protestant community’s under-representation in the public sector in Northern Ireland.

Mr Haughey:

Will the Member give way?

Mr Campbell:

I will not give way. I have less than a minute. [Interruption]

Mr Deputy Speaker:

I am sorry, Mr Haughey, but Mr Campbell has indicated that he will not give way.

Mr Campbell:

I will conclude by referring to remarks made by Mr Haughey and by talking in a straightforward manner so that the public and Members may be clear. Look at the higher echelons of the public sector in Northern Ireland. The higher the echelon, the smaller are the numbers of Protestants gaining employment. That is what the facts say. One cannot deny the facts; one cannot avoid them. That is what they say. The lower the grade in the public sector, the more likely it is that Protestants are employed there. The reality is the reverse of the propaganda.

I urge Members to vote strongly in favour of this motion in order to make the Equality Commission face up the facts contained in the tenth annual monitoring report and to allow us to get something done about it.

Mr Haughey:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Member has 15 minutes to sum up. That gives him five minutes to answer my question.

Mr Deputy Speaker:

Mr Campbell, do you wish to give way to Mr Haughey?

Mr Campbell:

Yes, I will give way for a brief intervention.

Mr Haughey:

I have just made a point of order; it was not a point of information. It was to point out that Mr Campbell has five minutes left in which he could answer the question. Does all of this mean that we need the strongest possible fair employment legislation?

Mr Deputy Speaker:

That was not a point of order. I assumed that you were asking Mr Campbell to give way.

Mr Campbell:

I thought that Mr Haughey was trying to intervene. I allowed him to intervene, and then he declined.

With regard to the point raised by Mr Haughey, a lack of tough legislation is not the issue. The issue is how that legislation is being implemented when it comes down to Mr Weir’s point about under-representation in either section of the community. Is there equal validity being given to the under-representation of Catholics in a workforce, as there is to the under-representation of Protestants in a workforce. The reality is that there is not. There is not the same emphasis or resources being deployed to deal with under-representation of Protestants, as I made clear at the outset.

The Equality Commission, the Government and the previous Fair Employment Commission based the whole rationale for their fair-employment legislation on the fact that Catholics are more likely to be unemployed than Protestants. They will not move away from that underlying principle. Until they do, we will be in an awkward position.

Mr Haughey:

Does the Member mean that we need different fair employment legislation? Do we need even tougher fair employment legislation? Is that what the Member means? Is he proposing that we have different and tougher fair employment legislation?

Mr Campbell:

I thank the junior Minister for that point. I thought I was making it clear, but let me make it even more clear. It is not the lack of legislation; it is how that legislation is being implemented. If, despite the effective legislation that is on the statute book, the Equality Commission can devote its time and resources to dealing with the under-representation of Catholics in certain sectors of the workforce but will not devote time and resources to dealing with the under-representation of Protestants in certain sectors of the workforce, the problem is not the legislation; the problem rests with those who are implementing it. The equality of the implementation of that legislation is what is at the heart of this motion.

Mr Weir:

Does the Member agree that a further statistic which shows the level of discrimination against the Protestant community in terms of employment in recent years is that, because of the improving economic situation since 1991, Protestant employment has risen by only 11%, whereas Catholic employment has risen by 36%?

Mr Campbell:

I thank my hon Friend for that statistic. It certainly makes a point. It illustrates how those who raise the old bogey-stories about the breakdown of the workforces from years ago — are trying deliberately to miss the point. The point we are making in this motion is that we must talk about the flow of workforces, the appointees and the applicants. That is what tells us what is happening in the workforce now — in the year 2000. That is the important issue — not employment levels in 1962 or in the 1970s and 1980s. We need to know what is happening now. That is what will form the basis for the future breakdowns of all our workforces. That is why this motion needs support from this House. That is why the Equality Commission needs to act to stem the flow and halt the under-representation of Protestant applicants and appointees in the public sector.

8.15 pm

Question put.

The Assembly divided: Ayes 21; Noes 27.


Roy Beggs, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Norman Boyd, Gregory Campbell, Mervyn Carrick, Wilson Clyde, Robert Coulter, Ivan Davis, Nigel Dodds, William Hay, Derek Hussey, Roger Hutchinson, Danny Kennedy, William McCrea, Maurice Morrow, Ian Paisley Jnr, Peter Robinson, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Sammy Wilson. [Tellers: Mr Berry and Mr Campbell]


Eileen Bell, P J Bradley, Joe Byrne, John Dallat, Bairbre de Brún, Arthur Doherty, Mark Durkan, John Fee, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Michelle Gildernew, Denis Haughey, Joe Hendron, John Kelly, Patricia Lewsley, Alban Maginness, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Gerry McHugh, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, Mick Murphy, Dermot Nesbitt, Dara O’Hagan, Éamonn ONeill, Sue Ramsey, John Tierney. [Tellers: Mr Molloy and Mr Tierney]

Question accordingly negatived.

Adjourned at 8.19 pm.


27 June 2000 / Menu / 3 July 2000