No Irish need apply
Dublin government raise civil service concerns

British officials have fobbed off concerns expressed by the Irish government about the ‘no Irish need apply’ ban in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) by engaging “in typical government double-speak”, a Tory MP told the Andersonstown News.

At the British-Irish intergovernmental summit that took place between Brian Cowen and Paul Murphy in Dublin on January 22, Irish officials had formally raised concerns about the British government’s ongoing ban against Irish nationals who apply for positions in the NICS.

However British officials responded to the Irish government by flagging up the implications of legislation tabled at Westminster – even though there is little likelihood of it becoming law.

Catholics have historically been heavily under-represented in the NICS, particularly in the senior Civil Service.

In 1996 a new ban was introduced to prevent Irish nationals from taking up employment in the NICS.

Figures obtained by the Andersonstown News last year indicated that Catholic representation in the senior ranks couldn’t – on current growth rates – reflect societal ratios until the year 2057.

And with the percentage of nationalists and republicans in the senior Civil Service even lower than the percentage of Catholics, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have consistently campaigned for the removal of the ban on Irish nationals.

Both parties argue that the ban is discriminatory and unlawful, and that it deliberately obstructs improvements to the overall representativeness of the NICS.

A senior Irish government source last night confirmed that the issue was formally raised with the British government at Farmleigh on January 22.

In response the British government said that “the current nationality requirements would be considered in the light of the progress of the Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill 2004, currently before parliament”.

However, the Andersonstown News has established that this Bill – cited as an indicator of progress by the British – is nothing more than a Private Member’s Bill which Andrew Dinsmore MP is attempting to introduce on his own for the second year in a row.

And, like last year, informed sources admit that this year’s Bill will remain stalled indefinitely.

This is primarily because of the virulent opposition of a single Tory MP – Eric Forth.

But it is also because of the British government’s decision not to prioritise the Bill on the floor of the House.

Yesterday the proponent of the Bill, Andrew Dinsmore MP, told the Andersonstown News that the legislation, if passed, would “sweep away the existing ban”.

Having had contact with nationalist politicians in the North, Mr Dinsmore said he understood the importance and implications of the Bill for Irish nationals seeking employment to the NICS.

“However it is being blocked by the Tories and (while that continues) the prospects of the Bill becoming law are slim.”

Quoting from Civil Service trade unions which also oppose the ‘no Irish’ ban, Mr Dinsmore noted that the current “nationality rules are blatantly discriminatory against people from the Irish Republic and the Commonwealth”.

Tory MP, Eric Forth, yesterday confirmed that he will continue to oppose the passage of the Bill – thereby stalling it indefinitely.

“I don’t believe in discrimination. I don’t believe in reverse discrimination. I don’t believe in affirmative action. I don’t believe in quotas,” Mr Forth told the Andersonstown News.

“I am totally against this Bill. It keeps coming up at the end of hearings and I will continue to be there to oppose it.

“I totally respect the Irish republic as a sovereign country, but I don’t see why that country should have any special treatment.”

Mr Forth said that the British government’s decision to respond to the concerns of Irish officials by referring to the Crown Employment (Nationality) Bill is “typical government double-speak”.

“The reality is that the government don’t feel sufficiently strongly about this issue to bring the Bill forward themselves,” said Mr Forth.

A British government spokesperson confirmed yesterday that no bill will be put forward by the government at this time because of “competing priorities”.

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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