The ‘Ashers’ case has now been heard, judgement delivered and some of those involved have made statements to the media,but I suggest that there is one further question for Michael Wardlow to answer.
The claimant at the hearing was supported by the Equality Commission which though fit to instruct an English QC – at public expense.
I do not practise in the field of discrimination law but I am aware that there several very capable counsel (particularly some of my female colleagues) who have considerable expertise and experience in this field.
Hopefully, Mr Wardlow can explain why it was felt necessary to go to London for counsel instructed by his commission and set out the criteria applied in making this decision.
The use of English counsel by the Equality Commission is only the latest example of a growing trend amongst government departments and public bodies (the DOE and DETI have also instructed English barristers in the recent past).
In this time of cut-backs in all sectors, perhaps some of our MLAs, through the Public Accounts Committee or otherwise, would ask the relevant authorities why there appears to be no economising in this matter.
Mark Orr QC