Presbyterian pursues discrimination case

November 28, 2003

A Liverpool University academic is bringing a case of religious discrimination against an Irish university that rejected his application for a chair of sociology.

The Irish Equality Authority is backing Argentine-born Ronnie Munck, who has spent much of his working life in Northern Ireland, in his case against the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

Professor Munck said there were irregularities in the appointment procedures and that there was a preference for a local applicant who had lower qualifications.

It is alleged that non-Irish-non-Catholic candidates - Professor Munck is a Presbyterian - were discriminated against and their qualifications not recognised.

The chair of sociology at Maynooth became vacant after the retirement of Father Liam Ryan nearly two years ago. Sean O'Riain, then an assistant professor at the University of California, was appointed to the chair.

Two of the candidates who were interviewed in May 2002, Des Bell of Napier University and Professor Munck, were unhappy about the manner in which they were interviewed. They wrote to the university's governing authority alleging various irregularities and asking for the post to be readvertised.

When this was refused, they took their complaints to the Equality Authority. The authority lodged Professor Munck's complaint with the director of equality investigations. The case will go to an equality officer, who will issue a legally binding decision.

The university is defending its handling of the interviews, and a hearing is expected shortly. Neither side would comment on the case.

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