01 February 2006

Court official suspended in Irish race row

The Herald

DOUGLAS FRASER, Scottish Political Editor

AN official in the Scottish court service has been suspended for allegedly sending an abusive and racist e-mail, describing Irish people as "green scum".

The Scottish Executive yesterday confirmed a junior member of staff was under investigation, the day after Jack McConnell had set out an 18-point plan to crack down on sectarianism in Scotland.

The e-mail, which told people proud of being Irish to go and live there, was raised with executive ministers last week by Jim Slaven, the Irish republican activist. He says he received it two weeks ago,
the day after violence erupted at a march he had organised in Glasgow to commemorate the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland in 1972.

Yesterday, Eleanor Emberson, the chief executive of the court service, confirmed a disciplinary investigation had started. She stressed the court service was "committed to fair treatment for all. Our customer and staff policies promote the value of diversity.

"The organisation requires staff to meet the highest standards of behaviour and conduct at all times. Any activity that has any racist or sectarian connotation is treated as a serious breach of conduct."

The investigation comes at an embarrassing time for Mr McConnell's administration, as he steps up his campaign to stamp out religious bigotry, with plans for Catholic and non-denominational schools to be twinned for sports, drama, and field trips. The executive is to provide an information pack for schools and local councils encouraging the "twinning" arrangements.

The campaign will also impose bans on disruptive individuals attending marches, and review the impact of sectarianism in Scottish workplaces. It follows a summit held follows a summit held in Glasgow last year and some of its points have already been launched.

Mr Slaven, of the Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) organisation, has referred the e-mail to the Commission for Racial Equality.

He said: "Rather than engaging in political posturing at primary schools, the Scottish Executive should take immediate action against the racist and sectarian elements within their ranks. Twinning schools and other PR exercises doesn't fool anyone in the Irish community. We want action."

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