Wednesday 13 December 2017

TD sent me a Christmas card – then I was sacked, tribunal told

Joan Blackbyrne
Joan Blackbyrne
Independent Donegal TD Thomas Pringle

Kevin Keane

A former secretary for Independent TD Thomas Pringle has told how she was fired from her job two days after receiving a card from him wishing her 'a lovely Christmas'.

Joan Blackbyrne has taken an unfair dismissals case against both the Donegal TD and the Houses of the Oireachtas. Legal representatives for the Houses of the Oireachtas maintain that it is not liable for the claim.

Although present at yesterday's Employment Appeal's Tribunal hearing, Mr Pringle has not yet had an opportunity to submit his response.

The tribunal heard that Ms Blackbyrne worked in the Houses of the Oireachtas for 11 years, beginning in 2001 as a secretary for Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae.

Upon Mr Healy-Rae's retirement, Ms Blackbyrne said she received a phone call from his son Michael, who had been elected to his father's seat.

"He said I couldn't stay on as I have to give my brother Danny my secretarial job and the parliamentary assistant job is also filled."

Withdrew

Ms Blackbyrne decided to take a redundancy package but withdrew her application after hearing Mr Pringle was looking for a parliamentary assistant.

She said she got on very well with Mr Pringle, but his office was in a very bad state with sockets and wires all over the floor.

In July 2012 she tripped over these wires and was brought to hospital by Mr Pringle.

She returned to work the following October but was still in pain. "My health got worse, my leg was swelling, I wasn't sleeping, my doctor advised me on December 14 to go on sick leave."

She said Mr Pringle was very, very busy at the time. She told him she had a note for sick leave, and he replied that he would have to "look at his options".

"Two days later I received a Christmas card with a cheque in it saying 'here's a little bit extra for Christmas and have a lovely Christmas'." Two days after this, she received a notice of redundancy.

"I was completely devastated," Ms Blackbyrne said.

Barrister for the Houses of the Oireachtas, Cathal McGreal, argued his client was not liable to be a party to the action.

He said the matter was governed by a statutory instrument that states that although paid by the Houses of the Oireachtas, a person providing secretarial facilities to a TD is employed by the TD and not the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The inquiry adjourned until December when it will give a ruling on whether the Houses of the Oireachtas are liable. It will also hear from Mr Pringle.

Irish Independent

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