Friday 21 October 2016

Fine Gael TD's fiancée makes legal challenge to EAT ruling

Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30

Sarah Comiskey and Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan
Sarah Comiskey and Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan

Fine Gael TD Sean Conlan's fiancée is taking legal action against the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ruling that found he unfairly dismissed his constituency assistant.

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Sarah Comiskey lodged the action with the High Court last month after the tribunal found Mr Conlan breached a litany of employment rights before sacking his assistant Cathy Shevlin, and ordered him to pay her €25,000 compensation.

The trained barrister was not called as a witness during the case but the breakdown in her working relationship with Ms Shevlin was central to the case taken by the TD's former assistant. This was noted by the EAT in its ruling.

Ms Comiskey did not have a finding made against her but she is referred to throughout the tribunal's determination.

Ms Comiskey is now seeking a judicial review of the ruling.

She filed an affidavit with the High Court on May 19 and the case is scheduled for mention on July 18.

Ms Comiskey first hit the headlines when it was revealed she was working as Mr Conlan's parliamentary assistant - a role that comes with a €55,000 taxpayer-funded salary.

Further publicity ensued when the Irish Independent revealed that an English antiques dealer wrote to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, when she could not reach Mr Conlan to discuss payment for a €10,000 diamond ring she believed he agreed to buy for Ms Comiskey.

Ms Comiskey and her father Brendan were with Mr Conlan when he tried to buy the ring at an antiques fair in England.

The couple's relationship was again aired in public when Ms Shevlin's unfair dismissal case was heard before the EAT last December.

The tribunal heard Ms Shevlin went on stress-related sick leave after workplace tensions developed when Mr Conlan hired Ms Comiskey.

She said the "dynamic" in the office changed and the two women clashed over how to run the constituency office.

Mr Conlan was eventually forced to intervene and called a meeting between the women.

Ms Sheviln said she felt "threatened and intimidated" during the meeting and tried to leave the office but was stopped by Mr Conlan.

She was dismissed six months later while on sick leave.

Mr Conlan claimed he was forced to sack his assistant because she breached her contract by publicly undermining him and giving personal election information to his rivals.

Ms Shevlin strenuously denied the claims.

Irish Independent

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