State papers: Damning report on fair employment at Queen's University

Queen's University Belfast
Éamon Phoenix

THE British government faced a damning report on employment practices at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) shortly after introducing its 1989 Fair Employment Act.

In December 1989 RJ Minnis of Stormont's economic development department wrote to economic minister Richard Needham about the Fair Employment Agency's report.

The official pointed out that Catholics now comprised 50.5 per cent of the student population at QUB as compared with only 19 per cent in the 1950s.

Some 3,000 staff were employed by the institution at the time.

The report showed that of the overall Northern Ireland-born staff, 79 per cent were Protestant and 21 per cent Catholic.

In the faculties of economic and social science, Catholics formed just 14 per cent of staff compared with 20 per cent in medicine, engineering and science.

Among technical staff the figures were 79 per cent Protestant and 21 per cent Catholic. Catholics formed 19 per cent of clerical staff, three per cent of maintenance staff and 11 per cent of administrative staff.

The investigation reviewed the university's recruitment and selection procedures and highlighted its policy of only using the Belfast Telegraph (a Unionist newspaper) to advertise vacancies and of filling clerical appointments by direct approaches to schools rather than by public competition.

Minnis warned Needham: "Critics have quickly seized on these statistical results as evidence of substantial discrimination against Catholics at all levels [at QUB] ... as had been well illustrated in an Irish News editorial of December 20, 1989, headed, 'A Sad Tale of Bigotry'."

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