Northern Ireland news

'Kill Fenians' remarks among allegations of sectarianism in Belfast City Hospital

A bonfire at the Donegall Road entrance to Belfast City Hospital in 2009. An investigation into allegations of sectarianism among security guards at the hospital included claims that wooden pallets were provided to 'locals' for bonfires
Seanín Graham

BULLETS in the post and comments including the "only good Catholic is a dead one" were among the allegations of sectarianism which sparked a major covert investigation centring on security staff at Belfast City Hospital.

It was also reported that paramilitary-style clothing had been worn by one employee walking through the hospital while others left wooden pallets for the "locals" to collect for their July 12 bonfire - close to its Donegall Road entrance.

Described as a "confidential and highly sensitive matter" by senior management in the Belfast health trust, a probe took place in 2011 and concluded there was "insufficient robust evidence" to take disciplinary action against those suspected of committing abuse.

Instead, recommendations were made to improve "equality and diversity policies" and make staff aware of the importance of a "neutral work environment".

As the "toxic" work atmosphere continued, senior trust management privately ordered a covert CCTV operation at the south Belfast hospital in 2012 - which is currently under scrutiny.

The Irish News has seen a copy of high-level health service documents which detail the explosive allegations that set in motion the separate probes.

"Allegations" investigated included:

- "Cuttings" of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth being attached to the staff rota around St Patrick's Day (when many Catholics were on duty) with "yum yum bring me your kiddies" written on it. When a Protestant staff member complained, he was said to have been asked privately why he objected as "it wasn't directed at him". The episode was reportedly dismissed by the alleged perpetrator as 'banter'.

- Death threats and bullets being sent to the home of an employee along with a photograph of his wife and child. He was reportedly called a "Fenian b*****d" by another staff member.

- A staff member 'declaring' "I'm a loyalist", "I'm in the National Front", and "I'm British and proud of it".

- Far-right British National Party posters about an inmigrant 'invasion' being put in a Catholic worker's locker, with "and taigs" written across it.

- An overheard comment about a Catholic staff member ringing in sick but not believed to be genuine: "F*****g Fenian, kill them all". Other remarks reportedly overhead included the "only good Catholic is a dead one"

- A 'perception' that information was being "leaked from within" to security forces about names, addresses and car details of some Catholic staff - after they were told their car details and names were known.

- Linfield and Rangers football shirts being worn by some staff in work. Another staff member allegedly wore 'paramilitary-style clothing' (black 'gear' and monkey hat) as he walked through hospital premises.

- 'Stoning" and verbal abuse of Catholic staff working near the Donegall Road gates on July 12. Wooden pallets from the hospital were also said to have been "left out" by some security guards for locals to "take" for bonfires.

Among the 22 recommendations made by the trust 'investigation' team was one which related to the "regular removal of wooden pallets" on the hospital site - "so that they are not available for bonfires".

A bonfire site at the Donegall Road entrance to the hospital caused concern for many years, with a 40-foot high blazing pyre toppling onto the road in 2009. The site has recently been transformed into a community garden.

Confidential correspondence sent by a Belfast trust manager in late 2011 about the conclusion of the investigation spells out the "significant sensitivities" in examining the allegations - and how there was "reluctance on the part of many individuals to be identified".

He adds: "The investigation team has concluded there was insufficient robust evidence to consider disciplinary action against any individual(s). However, the investigation team recommends a constructive, proactive approach to engage staff and work towards change within the security department."

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