Orange Order complains of ‘cold house’ NI civil service

Objections to Catholic co-workers talking GAA, confirmations and wearing Lenten ash

The Orange Order has claimed that Protestants in the Northern Ireland civil service are not being treated fairly compared with Catholics, citing double-standards in the acceptance of cultural practices.

A number of the 25 people surveyed by the loyal order for a new report complained about Catholic civil servants coming into work with Ash Wednesday ash on their foreheads and having sympathy Mass cards on their desks.

It was claimed that this compared with some Protestant being instructed to remove “religious tracts” from their desks.

Catholic colleagues discussing the results of GAA games, or a parent referring to the confirmation of a child, were also cited as matters that made work life difficult for Protestant civil servants.


The people surveyed for the report, Fairness & Fear: An Investigation of the Treatment of Protestants in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, were Orange Order members, or had close relatives in the organisation.

Cold house factor

The order said the survey was in response to an increasing number of complaints. Referring to a “cold house factor” for Protestants in the civil service, it said: “Our members are saying to us that they are not being treated fairly and they are afraid to speak out.”

Citing official statistics, the report said there were 300 fewer Protestants in the 25,000 civil service workforce than would be the case if the service “exactly reflected” the Catholic-Protestant population breakdown.

One woman surveyed said line management specifically spoke of the schools their children attended playing “camogie and GAA”. “I see this as letting Protestant staff know who they are.”

The order also criticised the promotion of the “Liofa” Irish- language campaign within the civil service and the publication in a civil service newsletter of people wearing items of clothing bearing GAA logos.

It complained that people wearing clothing with soccer logos were blurred out.

SDLP Assembly member Patsy McGlone said the complaints about the GAA, Mass cards and confirmations were “insulting”, “deeply bigoted” and “fundamentally stupid”, and missed the fact that many Protestants take the sacrament of confirmation.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times