FitzGerald sued by his secretary
Former assistant claims she was unfairly dismissed by ex-Taoiseach
Published 16/05/2010 | 05:00
Former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald is being taken to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) later this month by his former assistant who claimed he dismissed her unfairly, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Dr FitzGerald, 84, who was Taoiseach twice between 1981 and 1987 is being brought to the tribunal by his former personal assistant and secretary Sharon Kelly, who is claiming unfair dismissal.
The hearing, listed as "Sharon Kelly V Dr Garret FitzGerald and the Department of an Taoiseach", is scheduled for May 27 at 10.30am.
According to the list, the case is being taken under the terms of the Unfair Dismissals Act. Dr Fitzgerald, like other former leaders, retained a personal assistant after leaving office. He received an allowance from the State for his assistant, hence the involvement of the Taoiseach's department in the case.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach's department yesterday confirmed the details of the case and that it would be represented at the hearing. In addition to his garda driver and protection, which he retains for the rest of his life, Dr Fitzgerald is entitled to maintain a personal assistant to allow him to handle his affairs. He was paid a pension of €101,764 from the State in 2008 and he also writes a weekly column for the 'Irish Times'.
Dr Fitzgerald continues to lecture and speak publicly in Ireland and overseas. He only recently stepped down as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland (NUI) and was succeeded by Dr Maurice Manning.
Ms Kelly was quoted in a profile piece on Dr FitzGerald, published around the time of his 80th birthday, in which she compared her job to working for "Indiana Jones".
"Friday is the only sane day here, because he has to write his newspaper column.
"If the column is detached, he goes into Atticus Finch (the lawyer played by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird) mode, or George Bailey (hero of It's a Wonderful Life) if there's more passion.
"For the other six days of the week, it's like working for Indiana Jones."
The hardest part of working with Dr FitzGerald, she said, was convincing him to say "no".
"I think he is too generous with his time," she said. "When I was a first-year undergraduate it would never have crossed my mind to ring a former Taoiseach and say 'can I meet you?' or 'check my thesis for me', because they'll give him something really shoddy and he will start rewriting it for them. But one of his great joys is engaging with students at debates and after lectures.
"He loves hanging around, answering questions, and he'll come back on a high."
It is understood that Dr FitzGerald and Ms Kelly worked closely together and friends close to her said she was deeply upset by the deterioration of their relationship.
Speaking yesterday, Dr FitzGerald confirmed that Ms Kelly was in his employ up until quite recently and that the case is going ahead. When asked why she is no longer working for him, he responded: "I'm not going to go into all that, I have no more to say."