Northern Ireland

'Drumcree Chicken': Nurse wins discrimination damages

Ulster Hospital in Dundonald Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The nurse worked at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald

A Catholic nurse has been awarded £9,900 by an industrial tribunal on the basis of religious discrimination.

The tribunal upheld a number of complaints made by Shane O'Hare, a nurse at the Ulster Hospital.

He said that on 13 July 2011, he was eating with colleagues in the hospital and was offered home-made food that someone called "Drumcree chicken".

He claimed that the same person had also said: "Micks at one end, Oranges in the other."

He also said bunting and flags were put up in a hospital corridor. His line manager could not recall this.

Following the "Drumcree chicken" complaint, the tribunal rejected the manager's explanation that "a member of staff was from Drumcree".

'Cause offence'

The tribunal panel said: "We regard all three incidents as amounting to harassment of the claimant on grounds of his religion.

"We find the explanation for the name of the chicken dish to be disingenuous to say the least, as it ought to have been clear that the naming of a dish in that way, on that day, to a Roman Catholic, clearly had the capacity to cause offence."

Orangemen have been banned since 1998 from going down the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown after their annual march from Drumcree church on the Sunday before their 12 July celebrations.

Another strand of his complaint against the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust related to a request in July 2012 for a week's leave over the Twelfth fortnight, where his manager asked him: "Why would you want the Twelfth off?"

The tribunal said this had "the capacity to cause offence to a member of the Roman Catholic community".

His manager told the tribunal that her reason for saying that was because it was "a Protestant holiday and she is a Protestant".

'Political opinion'

In another grievance, the nurse's manager also referred to protests over the decision to only fly the union flag at Belfast City Hall on designated days, telling him: "I just wish they would fly the flag of the country and be done with it."

The tribunal said it amounted to an act of sectarian harassment, adding that as a manager, she "should have known better than to express such a political opinion in the workplace to a subordinate who is not of the same community background".

The tribunal also found that a union flag drawn on hospital documents by his manager "amounts to harassment by the respondent in the sense of failing to ensure a neutral working environment".

The drawing was left in an office that only their team could access, which meant it was an act of harassment on grounds of his religion, the tribunal found.

The tribunal found that the bunting in the corridor issue appeared not to have been investigated.

In calculating the compensation award, the tribunal said there was a pattern of discrimination comprising 11 events that took place over a period of several years.

The nurse had been off sick with stress for a number of months, and attributed his stress to his problems with his manager.

"We regard the Drumcree chicken, 'micks and oranges' comment, bunting, the flags protest and the flag drawing incidents as particularly serious," the tribunal said.

The tribunal dismissed a claim of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

In a statement, the South Eastern HSC Trust said it was disappointed with the findings and outcome of the case.

"The trust would refute that there is a culture of toleration of sectarian behaviour in any of our hospitals, but we will take immediate action to remind all staff of the importance of preserving a neutral working environment," it said.

"The trust only received the tribunal report on 26 November 2014, and we are considering the points contained within this and will take appropriate action."

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