An Taoiseach, Royal Portraits and Sectarianism in the NIO

NIO office, Stormont House

Fact 1: All Royal pictures were removed from the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) at Stormont House and replaced with landscapes   after Lee Hegarty, a senior civil servant in the NIO, with 15-20 years work experience, was paid £10,000 in compensation for being offended at having to walk past  portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Who is Lee Hegarty?

Mr Hegarty is the Secretary and Accounting Officer of the NI Parades Commission, a government body that has  angered Unionists, Loyalists and the Loyal Orders by banning and re-directing their marches and parades.

Comment: It was an out-of-court  settlement.  It was allegedly made to salve Mr Hegarty’s “hurt feelings and distress”.

Mr Hegarty was  reportedly  later promoted within the NIO.


Fact 2: A government spokesperson said on July 31st 2019:

The Northern Ireland Office takes its responsibilities very seriously and seeks to ensure a good and harmonious working environment for all staff; the requirements of which are set out in the 1989 Fair Employment Code of Practice.”

“In line with the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland’s Guide, Promoting a Good and Harmonious Working Environment, the Northern Ireland Office is sensitive to the display of ‘posters, pictures, portraits or other displays that are more closely associated with one or other of the communities’ and will consider any concerns raised by employees. I can confirm that the department takes steps to ensure no such images are displayed in Stormont House.”

Comments : To get money AND later promotion AND  removal of all royal portraits, Mr Hegarty must have brought a very strong complaint under Fair Employment legislation.

Stating that Mr Hegarty was offended by royal portraits  as the reason for the settlement suggests a strategy to minimise his complaint.

Removal of the paintings suggests Mr Hegarty may have been subjected to anti-Catholic sectarianism in the NIO.

Risultati immagini per sectarianism

What’s sectarianism?

It’s  a form of racism.

In  Northern Ireland, “sectarianism”   refers to divisions between Protestants and Catholics, mostly related to Irishness.

How is it expressed?

In  threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour or attitudes as well as in patterns of  segregation, exclusion, discrimination or violence

Queries: What about sectarianism in the workplace? Like what Mr Hegarty had to put up with in the NIO?

Sectarianism  can be located in the institution itself, its prevailing ideas, beliefs and attitudes and in individual actions

It is perpetrated by workers on fellow workers. The victim may, or may not, know who the perpetrator is

Any practical examples?

Like other victims of sectarianism in the workplace, Mr Hegarty might have:

  • seen offensive sectarian graffiti in workplace lavatories,
  • had his car or bike tyres slashed,
  • found iron filings in his coffee jar.
  • received threatening telephone calls, at work and at home, making reference to his religion.
  • found letters on his desk stating ‘Fucking Catholics’, ‘We know where you live’, and ‘UVF Taigs out’
  • had to listen to co-workers singing and whistling Orange tunes and  referring to UVF and/or the ‘Shankill Butchers’ assassination gang

He might have been

  • passed over for promotion, even though his qualifications and experience were better than the person’s appointed.
  • introduced as ‘This is Hegarty, our token Taig’, and have constantly been referred to as a ‘Taig’ and a ‘Fenian’
  • forced to say things like ‘I am a Fenian bastard’
  • obliged to watch co-workers display threatening tattoos ,  maybe something like  a dagger that said ‘Ulster – Remember 1690 – No Surrender’ or the one in the picture below

What are the effects of workplace sectarianism?

Working for  up to 20 years in such a toxic environment,

Mr Hegarty most probably  suffered ‘fear, humiliation, insult, stress and deep hurt‘.

All of which  contribute to  extremely poor mental and emotional wellbeing and worsen his quality of life.


Why didn’t  Mr Hegarty report it sooner?

Let’s assume he needed his job to earn a living.

The sectarian campaign against him did not start after he began work on the NI Parades Commission on 8 January 2018 because  the settlement  was signed off by Theresa Villiers, who was NI Secretary of State from 2012-16.

He may have endured sectarianism  because if he had reported it earlier he could have attracted unwanted attention from another section of the workforce and been  branded a “stirrer” or “trouble maker”.

He may have feared further  victimisation in the NIO  because he made a complaint of discrimination against it


Fact 3: An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar doesn’t mind royal portraits

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson supported  Mr Varadkar’s point of  view

As did Gregory Campbell of “Curry my yoghurt” fame

At Féile an Phobail he said

Twenty years ago I might not have said that but it is good. In fact, when I was on the way in there I was looking at some of the things on the walls on the way in and I took exception to some of them and I was offended by them and I was just wondering where do I get my £10,000 please? Do I send that to the organisers? We’ll park that for the moment.”


Fact 4: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, was born in Dublin on  8th  January 1979, educated at The King’s Hospital School, a voluntary Church of Ireland co-ed secondary school and Trinity College Dublin.

He is a Fine Gael politician  and was first elected to Dáil Eireann in 2007 where he has remained ever since.

Fact 5: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has absolutely no personal knowledge or experience of the type of sectarianism Mr Hegarty, “senior civil servant in the NIO”, must have undergone for up to 20 years to achieve £10,000 compensation, AND promotion AND removal of all royal portraits in the building in an out-of-court settlement

Remember Dr Varadkar, as Taoiseach and Ireland’s voice in the EU,  better say nothing (say nahim) than  make a comment that  looks like you are supporting anti-Catholic sectarianism and Orange bigotry in Northern Ireland.

Unless of course, that’s what you wish to do!



What is it about Leo Varadkar and his gaffe-prone trips abroad? All the times the Taoiseach made us morto