Sunday 21 July 2019

Infatuated secretary who was sacked by priest gets €1,560

A relieved priest has spoken of his hope that his former parish secretary can ''move on with her life'' after she developed a passion for him that caused her dismissal.

Fr Larry White said he was 'happy' with an Employment Appeals Tribunal determination on Margaret O'Hehir of Wolfe Tone Square West, Bray, Wicklow, who is believed to suffer from a condition called erotomania.

The tribunal found she acted in a manner that justified her dismissal when she became infatuated with the parish priest.

However, in its determination issued yesterday, it awarded her €1,560 because if found her dismissal had been procedurally unfair.

Fr White said he felt 'uncomfortable' when he received gifts from Ms O'Hehir, including a key ring he felt was inappropriate, due to what it depicted.

He said she also told him that she loved him and sent him Valentine's cards.

Ms O'Hehir had been parish secretary at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish since August 2001 and started working with Fr White the following year.

"I bear no malice against this person and I would hope the person in question would move on in her own life and find a direction that gives her contentment," said Fr White last night.

"It was just an unfortunate series of events. I'm happy with the decision and felt it was fair and just. All I can say, is that the situation wasn't of my making and the decision of the tribunal was based on some minor procedure that wasn't followed by us.

"As far as I'm concerned, the issue has been decided and I have to move on."

In the beginning, Fr White told the tribunal, everything was fine in their relationship, but about a year later things became 'uncomfortable'.

Embarrass

He said he accepted gifts from Ms O'Hehir because he did not want to embarrass her.

In May 2005, Ms O'Hehir made a 'bon voyage' card for him before an impending trip to Israel and she revealed in the card that she loved him.

He told her he respected such feelings but could not reciprocate them. Following this he had a meeting with Ms O'Hehir and she repeated that she loved him before she ''became hysterical and stormed out of the parish centre''.

He wrote to her and asked her to have a psychological assessment.

He decided to dismiss her on grounds of incapacity, based on a medical report from the psychiatrist.

But Ms O'Hehir claimed that she did not have a 'romantic agenda'.

Gifts

She said her comment 'I love you' on a card to Fr White was not 'meant in a sexual way' and her gifts were often free from a stationery company.

She did admit that some of the cards she had given the priest were inappropriate but none of the gifts were.

She said she bought gifts for him in the same way she had with the previous parish priest.

She said she was "totally gutted and in shock" when the priest decided to accept a resignation letter in September 2005 that she had submitted four months earlier.

A psychiatrist who evaluated Ms O'Hehir said her ''clinical presentation is consistent with a diagnosis of morbid infatuation, which is a variant of erotomania'.

However, Ms O'Hehir attended another psychiatrist and a senior psychologist with the Health Service Executive.

The psychologist said that from her contact with Ms O'Hehir, ''there was no concrete or defining evidence of her having erotomania''.

In its determination, the tribunal said as a Catholic, Ms O'Hehir knew the ethos of her job but totally disregarded it in her actions.

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