The Housing Executive has admitted it doesn’t employ enough Protestants in the west of Northern Ireland.
Across five offices spread throughout counties Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh, the Housing Executive employs 335 staff. Only 76 are Protestant — just under 23% of the workforce. Catholics account for 75%.
That is well below the overall Protestant working age population in the areas covered by those five offices, referred to as the ‘western section’, of around 30%.
Recruitment figures show the situation isn’t improving, and may in fact be getting worse.
In 2017, the Housing Executive took on 89 new recruits. Just 16 were Protestant, or around 18% – 72% were Catholic.
Again, this is well below the approximate figure of 30% that might have been expected if the Catholic-Protestant split were more reflective of the general population in the west of Northern Ireland.
The Housing Executive figures were obtained by the DUP MP Gregory Campbell under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr Campbell told the News Letter he has notified the Equality Commission of the situation.
The Equality Commission’s chief executive, Dr Evelyn Collins, has written to Mr Campbell to confirm that her organisation has “been in contact with officials from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and has received the data to which you refer... and information in relation to it.”
She added: “We are currently considering this and I will write to you again when we have had opportunity to do so.”
Mr Campbell believes the figures may be reflective of the wider situation within the public sector.
“This is symptomatic of other parts of the public sector,” he said.
The Housing Executive, meanwhile, admits there is a problem.
A spokesperson told the News Letter: “The organisation has in place an Affirmative Action Strategy, which has been agreed with the Equality Commission Northern Ireland which includes measures developed to encourage applications from members of the Protestant community who are currently under-represented in areas of our workforce.”
The spokesperson also stressed that it was an equal opportunities employer that “welcomes applications from all suitably qualified members of the community irrespective of any equality dimension.”
The spokesperson added: “All applicants, regardless of their community background are afforded equality of opportunity and selection is made solely on the basis of merit.”
Mr Campbell also used the figures to make a wider point about equality.
“This year is the 50th anniversary of the civil rights protests,” he said. “Both then and since, Irish republicans have based much of their campaigning under the banner of ‘equality’.
“When nationalist and republican politicians press for equality and accuse unionists of opposing the concept, they need to face facts and understand we not only don’t oppose it but demand it.”