Northern Ireland

Alan Lennon case: Error holds up DRD compensation hearing

Alan Lennon
Image caption Alan Lennon is seeking up to £200,000 after he was overlooked for a top job because of his religion

A hearing to award compensation in a high profile religious discrimination case has been postponed after a problem emerged with the tribunal panel.

Alan Lennon, a Protestant, was due to learn how much he would receive after he was overlooked for a top job by a Stormont department and its minister.

He won his case against the Department for Regional Development and its former minister, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy.

However, it has emerged a panel member was not entitled to hear the case.

Mr Lennon is seeking upwards of £200,000 for loss of earnings after he was overlooked for the post of chairman of NI Water.

The issue with the eligibility of one of the three-man panel arose hours after Monday's compensation proceedings had started.

The tribunal chairman said during an adjournment it was discovered that the panel member had turned 70 and had not been re-appointed by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) Minister, Stephen Farry.

On that basis, the hearing was postponed for a month.

In a statement, a DEL spokesperson said the failure to reappoint the minister was due to an "administrative oversight by the Tribunal Service".

They said Mr Farry had "asked for an urgent report on how administrative procedures need to be revised in order to ensure that such oversights do not reoccur".

Earlier, the Department of Regional Development lost a legal argument seeking to reduce its liability.

Mr Lennon won the industrial tribunal case in June, and was assisted by the Equality Commission.

Mr Murphy strongly disputes the tribunal's findings which he claimed branded him as "sectarian".

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