Programme of action failed to halt fresh controversy: Attempts by Queen's University to tackle discrimination have not pacified its critics, writes David McKittrick

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The Independent Online
QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY became embroiled in controversy over alleged discrimination in 1989 when an official report revealed that Catholics were seriously under- represented among its 3,000 staff, writes David McKittrick.

A report by the Fair Employment Agency (FEA) - now the Fair Employment Commission - concluded that the university employed four times as many Protestants as Catholics in its locally-recruited staff.

The 1989 report identified under-representation among the academic staff, where Catholics made up only 18 per cent of locally-recruited staff. In the highly-respected medical faculty only four of the 78 locally-recruited staff were Catholic.

Queen's accepted the findings and launched a programme of action to redress the imbalance. Judging from the significant rise in Catholic representation since then, the programme achieved almost immediate results.

Fresh controversies surfaced last year, however, when cases of alleged discrimination reached fair employment tribunals. The university paid a reported pounds 25,000 to a Catholic accountant who said he had been unfairly denied promotion. A Catholic man who was turned down for a junior office job received pounds 15,000.

Queen's denied discrimination in these and other cases, but the proceedings resulted in considerable damaging publicity. Then, in another case in September last year, it emerged that five staff, two managers and three secretaries, had been disciplined after a complaint about anti-Catholic remarks made to a secretary.

A number of nationalist groups have urged British and American universities to sever links with Queen's. The US congressman Joe Kennedy said he would campaign against Queen's receiving 'US taxpayer dollars or funds at any level'.

Ironically, the Catholic student population has grown steadily to at least 50 per cent of the whole.