Estate agent 'joked about size of Catholic families'

A partner at a leading Northern Ireland estate agency joked about the breeding habits of Catholics and the size of their families, a Fair Employment Tribunal heard today.

A partner at a leading Northern Ireland estate agency joked about the breeding habits of Catholics and the size of their families, a Fair Employment Tribunal heard today.

Catholic man Jonathan Montague, 28, who is alleging religious discrimination against former employers Templeton Robinson, claimed staff frequently engaged in religious banter in the office.

He said: “There were jokes about the size of Catholic families and the rate at which they bred.”

Mr Montague, giving evidence on the second day of a Fair Employment hearing said staff believed him to be a Protestant because he had been a boarder at leading grammar school Methodist College.

“Any banter that contained any religious or political statement wasn’t held back so I was under the impression they believed me to be Protestant as well and wouldn’t take offence.”

He said the comments about the size of Catholic families were made at the company’s head office on the Lisburn Road in Belfast by one of the partners, Keith Mitchell, and in the staff room by a sales agent, Patrick Palmer.

Barrister Conor Hamill representing Templeton Robinson strongly objected to the evidence saying it had not been given in the notice of particulars.

He said: “This is something that has not been pleaded. We have no warning of any such allegation that any blatant anti-Catholic comment was ever made.”

Tribunal president John Maguire said that this was the second time that extremely damaging allegations had been made against the company which they had not been made aware of.

He said that if Mr Hamill sought an adjournment to investigate the matter further the panel would look on it sympathetically.

Mr Montague from Ardenlee Drive in Belfast was employed as an accounts administrator at the firm in October 2000.

He said he was well-treated at first but the atmosphere changed when staff discovered he was a Catholic.

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