Council narrowly passes motion on equal job rights for former political prisoners

Councillors have narrowly voted in favour of a motion to ensure equal employment opportunities are given to former political prisoners in the Dungannon borough.

The divisive motion was passed by a single vote, with 10 members voting in favour and nine against.

Many councillors believed the idea would help ensure people were not “ostracised in society” as Northern Ireland moved towards “some sort of normalisation”.

But others said victims did not have equality of opportunity, and that if the council showed a difference in convicted crimes, it could be accused of not promoting equality.

Councillor Sean McGuigan, who put forward the motion, said its sole purpose was to help ensure that anyone who had a political conviction still had the same right to employment as anyone else.

He called on the council to show leadership and adopt the guidelines in the absence of the issue being moved forward in another forum.

“This council recognises the important contribution that former political prisoners have made to the peace process,” said Coun McGuigan’s motion.

“The Good Friday Agreement committed all of us to assisting former political prisoners play a full part in building a new society based upon equality.

“As part of building such a society this Council agrees to adopt the employers guidance issued by OFM/DFM and commits itself to ensuring that former political prisoners are allowed to compete for employment on exactly the same terms as every other citizen.”

The issue was discussed a Dungannon council meeting on February 13.

Coun McGuigan said the motion had been adopted by other councils and came from guidelines issued by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

Dungannon Town councillor and fellow Sinn Féin member Bronwyn McGaghan seconded the motion.

In response to councillor query, head of human resources Brendan Currie said the OFM/DFM guidance dated back some five or six years and had been taken into account in a recent review of the Local Government Staff Commission’s guidance, which the council follows to ensure equality of opportunity in employment.


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