Friday 23 March 2018

Brother of John Halligan criticises €7,500 award to woman quizzed on marriage and children during interview

John Halligan has faced calls to resign over the incident
John Halligan has faced calls to resign over the incident
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

THE brother of embattled Government minister John Halligan has lashed out at the decision by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to award €7,500 to a senior female civil servant who was discriminated against in a job interview.

Brendan Halligan, who also serves as the election agent for his brother John, described the ruling as “fundamentally wrong” and said he does not believe his brother should foot the bill.

His comments appear to put him at odds with his brother who today said he will contact the WRC to discuss the issue of how he can cover the costs associated with the decision.

Minister Halligan has been at the centre of a sexism storm after it emerged he asked a senior civil servant during a job interview whether she was married and had children. The woman’s application for the job in Mr Halligan’s office was unsuccessful.

The minister today tried to draw a line under the controversy, telling RTÉ’s Today with Séán O’Rourke programme that he was sorry for his actions.

But the controversy has since reignited following a separate radio interview given by the minister’s brother, Brendan.

In an interview with Eamon Keane on WLR radio, Brendan Halligan cited a number of areas of trauma, such as rape and abortion, saying that his brother has always stood up for victims.

And he suggested that the WRC ruling was fuelled by what he described as a “claims culture” in Ireland.

While insisting that his brother’s comments were “wrong” and “careless”, Brendan Halligan said it was the incorrect decision to issue a €7,500 fine.

“I’m saying he shouldn't pay it. It is my view he shouldn’t pay it. I’ll tell you why he shouldn’t pay it. I think the diktat that came down from Workplace Relations Commission... I think they were fundamentally wrong in making that sort of payment for that sort of discrimination,” Mr Halligan told the Deise AM programme.

While insisting that he is not “minimalising” or ”diminishing” the woman’s experience, Mr Halligan then cited a number of other areas of trauma.

“What I call distress and trauma is a woman or a girl who has been raped. And she makes a decision that she wants to go and have an abortion and she can't do it because the supports aren't in this country to do it,” Brendan Halligan said.

“What I consider distress and trauma is somebody that’s after being violated or abused and doesn’t have the supports there.”

Brendan Halligan attacked Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, saying that there was a concerted effort to force his brother out of the job.

And he attacked what he said is a “claims culture” in Ireland.

“I think it becomes easy for someone to say they’ve been discriminated against or hard done by,” Mr Halligan said, stressing that he is “not talking about this case particularly.”

Many senior figures have commended the female official involved for bringing her case to the WRC, who ultimately ruled that Mr Halligan's comments were in breach of equality legislation.

Among them was Arts Minister Heather Humphreys who last night praised the woman for her courage in taking the case and said the line of questioning was unacceptable.

"While I don't think he meant anything untoward, anyone going on an interview panel needs to make themselves aware of what they can and cannot ask," Ms Humphreys told the Irish Independent.

"I would like to commend the official who came forward with her complaint because it took bravery and conviction to do so. What this case does show us is that the processes we have in place work - the official was asked an inappropriate question in a job interview by a minister, took a case to the WRC, and won."

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