| 9.3°C Dublin

Asking about sexuality is inappropriate, says priest

Close

Fr Michael Drumm, Chair of the Catholic School Partnership, at St Ultan's Primary School in Ballyfermot during the launch of Catholic Schools Week 2015.
Picture: Steve Humphreys

Fr Michael Drumm, Chair of the Catholic School Partnership, at St Ultan's Primary School in Ballyfermot during the launch of Catholic Schools Week 2015. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Fr Michael Drumm, Chair of the Catholic School Partnership, at St Ultan's Primary School in Ballyfermot during the launch of Catholic Schools Week 2015. Picture: Steve Humphreys

A leading figure in Catholic education said it was "inappropriate" to ask teachers questions about homosexuality and personal religious beliefs at job interviews.

Fr Michael Drumm was commenting on a case where an unsuccessful applicant for the principal's job in a Catholic primary school said a nun on the interview panel pursued a particular line of questioning about her personal beliefs, that included asking: "What about the homos?"

The Equality Tribunal has awarded €54,000 compensation to the teacher - who was passed over for a younger, less experienced colleague - after ruling that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation.

The teacher is continuing as deputy principal in the school, which is under the patronage of Dr Dermot Clifford, the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which covers most of Co Tipperary and parts of Co Limerick.

The nun, identified in the Equality Tribunal ruling as Sr B., and the two other interviewers, both men, denied that she asked: "What about homos?"

Fr Drumm, who is chairperson of the Catholic Schools Partnership, said while the issue of whether the question was asked was disputed, it would be "inappropriate" for someone to ask questions that sought information about an applicant's personal beliefs.

Ethos

Fr Drumm said that while it was legitimate for interviewers to bring up adherence to a school's ethos, and that applied to all schools not just those under religious patronage, "what you don't probe is a person's inner loyalty to the ethos".

According to Fr Drumm, boards of management and interview panels had received an enormous amount of guidance and training about the conduct of interviews. He said he had sat on interview panels and the guidelines "could not be clearer".

He added: "If an individual doesn't follow the guidance, that it is their responsibility, and it needs to be faced up to."

The tribunal's findings led to a call from the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) for mandatory training for all persons involved in conducting such interviews.

Fr Drumm said the tribunal's ruling needed careful reading and reflection, and, if further guidance was merited, it would be given. He was answering questions at the launch of Catholic Schools Week, which starts on Sunday.

Irish Independent