Ex-GAA presenter accuses BBC of race discrimination
Published 28/04/2010 | 05:00
VETERAN BBC Northern Ireland sports presenter Jackie Fullerton yesterday became embroiled in an unfair dismissal case taken by the station's former GAA chief who is claiming racial discrimination.
Jerome Quinn -- the former face of BBC Northern Ireland's GAA coverage -- was sacked by the BBC last year after having been discovered criticising his employer through anonymous posts on an internet forum.
Mr Quinn, who is representing himself at an employment tribunal in Belfast, launched a blistering attack on his former employer as he opened his case on Monday alleging a "Protestant and British prejudice" within the organisation.
Mr Quinn, who presented 'The Championship' for 17 years, yesterday claimed Mr Fullerton had liaised with his BBC bosses to ensure a judging panel for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2008 would not favour a GAA winner.
In his role as organiser of the judging panel for the awards, Mr Quinn said he had a meeting with Mr Fullerton in which "he made it very clear that GAA should not have a chance of winning against someone who had won an Olympic medal or a Ryder Cup tournament".
Mr Quinn, from Omagh, Co Tyrone, further alleged that he received an email soon after from his sports editor to inquire about the judging panel and make a change to the panel that would "lessen the chances of the GAA person winning the award".
Yesterday's three-member panel heard further statements from Mr Quinn -- who was revealed to have claimed job seeker's allowance at one stage since being dismissed -- relating to how the "GAA suffered on a daily basis" in terms of coverage on BBC radio and television.
Mr Quinn also detailed incidents which he said amounted to harassment on "religious and racial grounds", including overlooking him for other sports -- citing that he was disinterested in anything but GAA.
He added that he had been made aware of a rumour blaming him for endangering the personal safety of his former boss after his picture was posted on a GAA forum.
"He is alleging that I was responsible for the photo in which he appeared and the comment which followed," said Mr Quinn.
Mr Quinn denied having anything to do with the picture and said subsequent discussion on the matter within the BBC may have unfairly formed part of the reasons for his dismissal.
He also referred to previous media coverage which he said backed up his claims that the BBC did not give equal treatment to GAA among other sports. "I feel it suited the BBC to blame me for the prolonged criticism of BBC Sport NI from the GAA," he said.
BBC lawyers are expected to begin their cross-examination of Mr Quinn today.
Opening his case yesterday, Mr Quinn read a 14-page statement which alleged: religious and racial harassment because he was Irish; Promotion of "Protestant-supported sports" over GAA; and attempts to manipulate voting to stop a GAA player winning the 2008 Sports Personality of the Year award.
Mr Quinn said his sacking in 2009 cost him his career as a presenter and caused "serious reputational damage".
He claims he was the subject of "conscious discrimination" because of his Catholic and Irish background.
The case will continue for the rest of the week.