Catholic 'faced discrimination'

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The Independent Online
A Catholic woman's attempt to make inroads into the Ulster Unionist party has ended in controversy, with a formal charge that the party discriminated against her on religious grounds.

Patricia Campbell, who worked for several months as a Commons research assistant to former Ulster Unionist leader, James Molyneaux, has filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Fair Employment Tribunal. Ms Campbell is a Catholic from North Antrim.

She claimed she was unfairly treated in not being short-listed for the post of party public relations officer. Ms Campbell, 30, an Oxford graduate who works in market research, yesterday described herself as a passionate Unionist.

She said: "I have stuck my neck out by becoming the first Catholic of my generation to become involved in the Ulster Unionist Party. Look at how my pioneering courage has been repaid. So much for the claim that there is no bar to Catholic advancement in the party."

The UUP general secretary Jim Wilson responded: "I am aware that Ms Campbell has made a complaint, but as correspondence is being exchanged between my office and the party solicitors it would be unwise to comment further."

Although there is no ban on Catholics joining the party, Catholic members are extremely rare. The party has close connections with the Orange Order, and occasional remarks by its leading members have offended Catholics.

But although Catholic membership of the party tends towards zero, there is evidence that many Catholics see economic and other advantages in the maintenance of the union.

Ms Campbell filed her discrimination suit some months ago. When David Trimble succeeded Mr Molyneaux as party leader a month ago she wrote an open letter to him in the Belfast Telegraph, calling on him to sponsor a new organisation to be known as Catholics for the Union. She claims Mr Trimble has totally ignored her.