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Industrial Tribunal ruling on stand-by maps described as a landmark decision

13 June, 2005

Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Equality, Human Rights and Women Caitríona Ruane MLA described today's verdict by an industrial tribunal, who ruled that NI Fire Brigade must scrap their 'standby map' policy, as a 'landmark decision that will have long term implications for public sector bodies throughout the north'.

Ms Ruane said:

"This policy was designed to include predominantly unionist towns like Craigavon and Portadown so anyone from these areas would be eligible for senior positions within the Fire Brigade. At the same time, it excluded large swathes of the nationalist population who live in places like Belfast, South Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, South Armagh and Derry.

"It was only through the determination of John Allen, who had been prevented from accepting a promotion because he lived in a town outside of the standby map area, that the Fire Brigade have been forced to abandon their policy."

"Today's verdict is a victory for the rights of people working in the Fire Service and the people who live in nationalist areas of the north. It is also a damning indictment against the Fire Service who attempted to implement policies designed to deliberately exclude nationalists from the most senior positions. I welcome also, the announcement that any future policy decisions will be scrutinised and equality proofed so they meet the requirements of Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act.

"The policy of stand-by maps was an attempt to exclude members of the Catholic community yet it effectively discriminates against anyone living outside of these designated areas. Questions must be asked why the Fire Service choose to fight this case and why it took so long to reach today's inevitable outcome. I am calling on the Fire Service to publish how much money they spent fighting this case.

"This is a historical development and a landmark decision which will have long term implications for public sector bodies throughout the north. The Fire Brigade has historically been an organisation that seemed exempt from proper scrutiny. Today‚s decision should serve as a warning for all public authorities in the North about the implications of them failing to embrace public equality duties. For too long the brigade has been a cold house for Catholics, particularly at a senior level, and I want to commend the bravery, determination and far-slightness of John Allen whose stand against discrimination in then brigade will have long term benefits for people who would otherwise have suffered similar inequality." ENDS

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