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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 15:05 GMT
Irish fire worker claims racism
Ann Neylan
Ms Neylan says she was ridiculed while working for the fire service
An Irish woman ridiculed for not speaking the "Queen's English" suffered a "conspiracy of neglect" by her fire service employers, a tribunal was told.

Ann Neylan, 39, says she was subjected to ridicule after complaining about alleged racial abuse at the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The control room worker, from County Galway, says she was told to go if she did not speak the "Queen's English".

She is claiming victimisation under the Race Discrimination Act.

It was a conspiracy of neglect, neglecting to follow the procedures
Ms Neylan's partner Peter Bird
She says the victimisation reached a head in a conversation about her pronunciation of the word "daft", which led to one colleague, Liz Mitchell, her temporary watch commander, telling her to go back home "if you don't start speaking the Queen's English".

The tribunal heard on Tuesday that Ms Mitchell's "punishment" had been to be sent back to her normal rank, ending a temporary promotion.

But assistant divisional officer Mark Pinnell, who later investigated the incidents, told the tribunal that he did not consider the ending of her temporary promotion as any punishment "at all".

He told the tribunal: "I would say punishment is demotion. That's putting somebody back to their existing rank, it's not demotion."

In a statement, Ms Neylan's partner, Peter Bird, said of the way her complaints had been handled: "She became convinced it was some sort of conspiracy to drive her out of the workplace."

When asked what he meant by his use of the word conspiracy, Mr Bird told the tribunal: "It was a conspiracy of neglect, neglecting to follow the procedures."

The tribunal heard that, after Ms Neylan's complaint of victimisation under the Race Discrimination Act had been lodged with an industrial tribunal, a file containing sensitive psychiatric and medical information was kept at the control room where other members of staff were able to see it.

The hearing continues.

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