Discrimination bill blocked by nationalist parties

Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sandra Overend
Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sandra Overend

The UUP’s attempt to repeal the law which allows discrimination in teacher recruitment on the grounds of religion has been blocked by the nationalist parties at Stormont.

Speaking ahead of a debate on amendments to the Employment Bill, Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Sandra Overend voiced her frustration at the stance taken by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

She said: “The Ulster Unionist Party has long been committed to repealing Article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order, which allows teacher recruitment to be exempted from normal fair employment rules.

“Our amendments due for debate at the further consideration stage of the Employment Bill would, if voted through, repeal Article 71...known as the ‘teacher exception’.

“It is quite unbelievable that nationalist parties, who never tire of shouting about equality and civil rights, are vetoing an attempt to end this license to discriminate through the device of a petition of concern.”

An SDLP spokesman said that the party supports equality of opportunity for teachers.

He added: “However, the Ulster Unionist Party gave one day’s notice of amendments which would fundamentally change teacher recruitment. Education reform should not be dealt with through amendments tacked on to the end of other substantive pieces of legislation.”

Sinn Fein MLA and education spokesperson Chris Hazzard said that the party “will not support rushed amendments in relation to equality and employment legislation being brought to the floor without a proper process of consultation and debate”.