Nelson leads calls for Civil Service balance

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Dromore solicitor and leading Orangeman Drew Nelson has become embroiled in controversy after the Order penned a report on Protestant representation in the Civil Service.

The report calls for action to stem what it identifies as a steady decline in the number of Protestants in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

Though turned down a year ago on the grounds that it would be “inappropriate”, the Orange institution has issued a fresh call for a meeting with the head of the civil service, Malcolm McKibbin.

Orange Grand Secretary Mr Nelson accepted that “probably 50 years ago” the service was disproportionately Protestant, but each year since 2001, he said, had seen a one per cent drop in the number of Protestants.

In 2001, 60 per cent of the civil service was Protestant; by 2013, that had fallen to 52 per cent, a shift Mr Nelson attributed to “a prevailing ethos within the civil service that for 50 years when it was Stormont one-party rule the civil service was seen as maybe a cold house for Catholics”, adding, “...that ethos, it seems to me, has continued and there’s still a continuing perception that some great wrong needs to be rectified.”

The Orange Order report said it was “totally inconsistent” for the prison service to meet the GAA to discuss its (overly Protestant) religious imbalance, while other parts of the civil service refused to meet the order.

The report said that while it was “commendable” that the prison service was attempting to address its religious imbalance, departments “which have a disproportionate Roman Catholic numerical bias have not demonstrated the rigour and priority [given to the issue in the prison service]”.

Much of the report consists of anonymous testimony from civil servants, the vast majority relating to either the Department of Social Development or its subsidiary, the Social Security Agency.

One person said that while working at the SSA they saw a Protestant employee “subjected to sectarian abuse, being ostracised and bullied because of her Protestant religion. Daily jokes were made about ‘Prods’, staff flaunted clothing in green, white and gold . . .”

They claimed “some Roman Catholic managers simply turn a blind eye to it”.