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Discrimination has no place within our schools

25 April, 2007

Sinn Féin Equality Spokesperson, Foyle MLA Martina Anderson commenting on the Court of Appeal Case in Belfast today challenging the right of schools to discriminate against teachers on the grounds of religion has said that 'discrimination has no place within our schools'.

The test case being supported by the Equality Commission, involves Caroline Flynn and Beatrice Debast, two Catholic teachers who work at Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn. They applied unsuccessfully for the post of head of modern languages in the school, but the job was given to two non-Catholic candidates on a job share basis.

Ms Anderson said:

"This is an important test case because while many people want to protect the ethos of individual schools many people will also agree that discrimination against any teacher on the grounds of religion should have no place within our schools.

"In the past there has been an exemption within our school system which allowed schools here to discriminate on religious grounds when making new teaching appointments, something that would otherwise be illegal under fair employment legislation.

"However, the legal framework is clear that within schools that promotion internally must be free from discrimination and all applicants must be treated equally. A European Equal Treatment Directive now means that while currently religion can be taken into account when a teacher is being appointed to a new post, that once a teacher is employed they must have equal rights to promotion.

"I particularly welcome the support of the Equality Commission for this case and the determination to challenge exemptions from the fair employment legislation." ENDS

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