Teacher given €54k after nun's 'homo' remark

When places are in heavy demand, schools can ask for baptism certs or other proof of a child's religious affiliation

By Katherine Donnelly

A teacher in a Catholic primary school has been awarded €54,000 compensation after a controversial interview for the principal's job during which a nun asked her: "What about the homos?"

The Equality Authority has ruled that the teacher, who was deputy principal in the school at the time, and was passed over for the job by a less experienced colleague, was discriminated against on the grounds of age, religion and sexual orientation.

In his ruling, Equality Officer Stephen Bonnland, questioned the credibility of some of the arguments put forward by the interview panel, which comprised a nun, identified as Sr B, and two men.

The school is under the patronage of Dr Dermot Clifford, The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which covers most of Tipperary and parts of Limerick.

The teacher had eight years' experience in the role of deputy principal and a master's degree, and was recognised as being more experienced and better qualified than the successful candidate.

But the interview panel awarded both candidates the same mark for experience and qualifications, leading the Equality Officer to conclude that she had been discriminated against on grounds of her age.

The Equality Officer also accepted that the claimant was asked discriminatory, and therefore unlawful, questions.

Sr B had asked for her personal views on the Forum on Pluralism and Patronage, set up by former minister Ruairi Quinn to reduce the dominance of the Catholic Church on primary education.

The Equality Officer found that this question was asked to ascertain her general religious outlook, which he found was outside the remit of the exemptions granted to schools under legislation.

Sr B and the two other members of the interview panel denied the nun had asked the follow-up question "what about the homos" but the Equality Officer said he believed she had.

In his finding, Mr Bonnland stated that "Sr B's insistence on her lack of memory stood in marked contrast to her precise recollection on her interview questions relating to educational philosophy."

The compensation is the equivalent of a year's salary but because it was awarded for distress it is not liable for any taxation.

The teacher is still working as deputy principal in the school.