Age discrimination: Arts chief Roisin McDonough awarded £12,000

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

image captionRoisin McDonough said the ACNI failed to adequately progress her request for flexible retirement.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has settled an age discrimination case with its own chief executive for £12,000.

Roisin McDonough alleged age discrimination and victimisation against the body she has headed since 2000.

Ms McDonough said that ACNI failed to adequately progress a request she had made for flexible retirement.

The council settled the case without admission of liability.

The Arts Council is an arm's length body of the Department for Communities, and distributes millions of pounds of public money to arts organisations, venues and events.

In January 2017, Ms McDonough applied to ACNI for flexible retirement.

She wanted to work for four, rather than five, days a week from 1 April 2017.

However, no decision was made about her request and she alleged that she was asked about her plans to fully retire and if she had decided on a retirement date.

She also said that there was speculation among ACNI staff about when she would retire and who might replace her - something she considered undermined her position as chief executive.

Ms McDonough initiated an internal grievance procedure over ACNI's failure to progress her request and subsequently claimed that she had suffered age discrimination.

'Hurt and injury'

An internal panel upheld her grievance complaint and she started working four days a week in September 2017.

Her age discrimination and victimisation case against ACNI has also now been settled.

Ms McDonough's case was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

Its head of legal services, Anne McKernan, said that in settling the case, the ACNI had acknowledged Ms McDonough's hurt and injury to her feelings.

"It has reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of equality of opportunity in employment and will liaise with the commission and review its policies and procedures concerning age," she said.

Ms McDonough thanked the commission for supporting her case.

"I believed my flexible retirement request was in line with the organisation's human resources policies," she said.

"I was disappointed that my request was not being progressed and felt under pressure to provide a definite date for retirement.

"I believed that this was inappropriate and that any decision on my retirement should be mine and mine alone."

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