15 December 2005

Former IRA inmates in job discrimination row

Belfast Telegraph

Pair in court battle after Simon Community refusal

By Marie Foy
15 December 2005

An IRA lifer was turned down for a job with a homeless charity because of his past convictions, a Fair Employment Tribunal has heard.

Ex-prisoner John McConkey (50), from west Belfast, is claiming political discrimination against the charity after it withdrew an offer to employ him as a residential support worker at its Falls Road hostel in 2000.

In a dual action, another former IRA prisoner Jervis Marks (38), from Forkhill, Co Armagh, is also alleging he was discriminated against after he lost out on the post of night worker at a Simon hostel in Newry in July, 2002.

The Simon Community is denying unlawful discrimination in both cases, arguing it took the decision not to employ both men because of their serious criminal convictions.

The pair are claiming that they were rejected because of their republican sympathies.

The applicants' case was heard in October.

Dawne Anderson, former director of projects for the Simon Community, was giving evidence at a hearing in Belfast yesterday.

Yesterday, Karen Quinliven, counsel for the applicants, put it to Ms Anderson that she said she had not given Mr McConkey the job because of concerns he might seek to influence vulnerable residents that the use of violence for political ends was acceptable.

Ms Anderson replied "yes". She added that her decision was based on the serious nature of the applicant's convictions.

The witness was asked if she accepted that there were republicans who did not support violence.

Ms Anderson answered that she had had a 'black and white' record of an individual who had a violent record.

Ms Quinliven suggested that at no stage had the charity claimed that Mr McConkey posed a direct threat of physical risk to the residents, apart from the concern that paramilitaries might try to gain access to the hostel.

Mr McConkey was sentenced to life for murder after a supergrass trial in 1983. He lost an appeal in 1986 and was later released by the Life Sentence Review Commission.

Mr Marks was convicted of conspiracy to murder and explosives offences. He was released in 1998.

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