Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By James Ward Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent james.ward@dai­ly­mail.ie

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

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