HALLIGAN WILL PAY €7,500 TO SAVE HIS JOB
JOHN Halligan has offered to pay the €7,500 fine he landed on the taxpayer after asking a women if she was married or had children during a job interview – and may have saved his job as a result.
Fianna Fáil stated it would not put pressure on the Independent Alliance TD if he apologised and took responsibility for the fine himself.
The party’s equality spokesman Jim O’Callaghan told the Irish Daily Mail: ‘If he apologises, recognises what he said was wrong and agrees to pay back the fine then I don’t think he needs to do more.’
On Wednesday, the Workplace Relations Commission found that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, where Mr Halligan is a junior minister, had discriminated against the woman and ordered that she be compensated. The WRC said the minister’s comments had been ‘outmoded’, ‘ill-advised’ and had ‘tainted’ the interview process.
Reports had surfaced suggesting the Mr Halligan was preparing to appeal the WRC ruling, but speaking from a Government trade mission in Thailand yesterday he denied this and said he would have no problem paying the €7,500 compensation bill himself.
The comments by Fianna Fáil’s Mr O’Callaghan came after Fine Gael ministers and TDs, including Michael Ring, Kate O’Connell and Noel Rock, demanded he cover the costs himself.
Ms O’Connell said there was nothing to be achieved by sacking Mr Halligan, but questioned his inability to follow protocols.
She said: ‘Ministers have to be able to follow protocol. My understanding is that ministers get a lot of support and direction because you’re landing into a department that you may have had no dealings with before.
‘I would have thought that anyone would know that you couldn’t say or ask these questions in an interview process.’
Mr O’Callaghan said: ‘While Minister Halligan is right to apologise and repay the money to the State, the fact he asked a female applicant about whether she was married and had children is akin to what would have happened well over 30 years ago.
‘Thankfully these type of questions at interviews are well gone and illegal. While he says he was trying to put the candidate at ease I wonder would he have actually asked the same question of a male candidate?... While he may not have been trying to offend what he asked was deeply inappropriate.’
Labour TD Seán Sherlock has repeated calls for Mr Halligan to resign, noting that he is part of department responsible for overseeing the very law he broke.
He told RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Seán O’Rourke: ‘He knew when he asked the question that he knew he was in breach of the law. I think the question here is not fundamentally the decency of John Halligan as a person, but the fact that he was in clear breach of the law. It showed an error of judgment.
‘Is there scope for the kind of error in judgment as a minister, particularly in the department that oversees the legislation in relation to the Workplace Relations Committee?’ He added: ‘If the finding is against him, he broke the law and he’s in that Department, then yes I think it’s very clear he should go.’
In comes after a difficult week for Mr Halligan, who has been the subject of ridicule since the Irish Daily Mail revealed his plans to travel to North Korea as a peace envoy which were rubbished by Government.
The WRC heard that Mr Halligan said to the woman: ‘I shouldn’t be asking you this, but .... Are you a married woman? Do you have children? How old are your children?’. His comments which were not disputed by his Department.
Critics have pointed to these words as an admission by Mr Halligan that he was aware the question was inappropriate before it was asked.
Mr Halligan however, insisted that he was only trying to put the woman ‘at ease’ and trying to be ‘as accommodating as possible to people who have children’.
‘Ministers have to follow protocol’
Under pressure: Junior Minister John Halligan
Criticism: Kate O’Connell