Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

By Paul Bew; Henry Patterson et al. | Go to book overview

6
REALISING FAIR
EMPLOYMENT IN A DIVIDED
SOCIETY

Whereas the previous chapter examined the debate about the causes of Catholic disadvantage, the focus here is on government-led moves towards fair employment. This is a natural progression, for, as arguments raged about why Catholics fared worse than Protestants in the labour market, successive governments signalled the unacceptability of this situation by pursuing a range of anti-discrimination policies. The purpose of this chapter is to assess the success or otherwise of public policies to eradicate religious bias from the employment system.

Two key conclusions are reached. On the one hand, a strong anti-discrimination institutional regime has been created in the region and progress has been made towards fair employment. On the other hand, neither community appears satisfied with the fair employment system: while Catholics believe not enough has been done, Protestants feel that they are beginning to lose as a result of job recruitment being weighted in favour of Catholics. Together these two conclusions suggest that attempts at reforming Northern Ireland piecemeal run the danger of falling foul of the deep-rooted sectarian divisions that exist in the region. To put the matter differently, realising equity in the labour market, and containing the political tensions that are associated with the issue, would be advanced by a historic compromise between Unionism and Nationalism.


THE LEGISLATIVE MOVES TOWARDS
FAIR EMPLOYMENT

In the early years of the Troubles, two influential reports, the

-143-

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