[Sinn Fein]

4th December 2001

Equality concern at Invest Northern Ireland appointments

Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA Dr Dara O'Hagan has expressed concern at the appointment of the acting chair of the IDB and the chair of LEDU as directors of Invest Northern Ireland, without public advertisement.

Dr O'Hagan said:

``Equality guidelines specify that all new public appointments should be widely and publicly advertised. It is therefore a matter of great concern and disappointment that the acting chair of the IDB and the chair of LEDU have been appointed directors of Invest Northern Ireland without any public advertisement.

``Legislation which protects the contracts of workers with transferred employers has been cited by the department as justification for not advertising these posts. While we would all support workers' rights, regulations should not be used to side-step equality obligations. It would be better if departments were able to offer a full and public defence against accusations of unlawful discrimination. There should be no need for Ministers to shelter behind special protection.

``We know that fair employment and equality issues have been at the centre of politics for a long, long time in the north of Ireland. They have been a central issue in the make up, activities and policies of the development agencies, particularly the IDB and LEDU.

``INI will play a central role in industrial development in the future and it is crucial that we start with a clean slate and get the structures right from the very beginning. Equality obligations and the need for openness and accountability appear to have been ignored.''

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