Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has stressed that its recruitment processes meet all legal requirements, and that all staff appointments are made on individual merit.
The local authority offered the assurance in response to claims of “an under representation of Protestants” within the council.
The claim was made in a statement issued on behalf of TUV leader Jim Allister, which said: “For every 14 Protestants who applied one was appointed (approximately), but for every five Roman Catholics who applied one was appointed. Why is it almost three times more difficult for a Protestant to be appointed? This is a truly alarming discrepancy which I’d like explained.”
He continued: “The council’s own Community Background report says that the council is 67% Protestant and 24% Roman Catholic while the remaining 9% is none or other. How then are over 57% of those appointed to senior posts from a Roman Catholic background?
“I have written to the council’s Chief Executive requesting an explanation and informed the Equality Commission of the information I have uncovered.”
Responding to Mr Allister’s comments, the council said it “strongly refutes” any suggestion of discrimination in its recruitment process.
“All council appointments are carried out in accordance with the Code of Procedures set down by the Local Government Staff Commission. As an extra measure of transparency, senior post appointments are overseen by the Commission to support a clear and robust process,” a spokesperson said.
“The religious background of applicants is held confidentially by the council’s HR Unit and at no stage are recruitment panel members made aware of such personal details of potential employees.
“Appointments to council positions are, and always have been, based on merit.
“The council has not received any complaints of any type of discrimination regarding the recruitment of any senior posts.”
The spokesperson added: “As required by law, the council provides an annual return to the Equality Commission. This includes details of community background of both appointees and applicants and these have been reviewed by the Commission and no concerns have been raised.
“While the council is very disappointed that such allegations have been made, it firmly believes that these are without any basis and all recruitment continues to take place, in accordance with all legal requirements and always based on individual merit.”
The political make-up of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is unionist-dominated. Of the 40 elected members, 29 are DUP, UUP or TUV representatives.