Saturday 20 January 2018

Nobody should be forced to change their principles

Is it so wrong to want someone employed in your home who would accord with the norms of your family values?
Is it so wrong to want someone employed in your home who would accord with the norms of your family values?
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Until the end of the 1960s, you could read adverts for domestic staff in the papers which added the coda: 'Protestant preferred'.

This is nowadays greatly deplored as arrant sectarianism. But on closer analysis, was it so unreasonable for, say, a Church of Ireland rector in Co Leitrim to seek a Protestant housekeeper to mind his four children? Is it so wrong to want someone employed in your home who would accord with the norms of your family values?

Our contemporary laws say it is unacceptable. Discrimination in Ireland is against the law in the workplace, under Employment Equality Acts, or in goods and services, under the Equal Status Acts. And of course, discrimination in the public arena of employment is highly unjust and also extremely inefficient. When Walter Long, the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the 1900s, urged the civil service to "appoint only solid unionists" to Irish government service, it was an outrageous example of seeking to manipulate a public civil service for political ends.

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