Flanagan insists Halligan interview conduct "not a hanging offence"

The Justice Minister says John Halligan "probably knew he was wrong"

Flanagan insists Halligan interview conduct "not a hanging offence"

Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Justice has said he does not believe John Halligan's controversial interview questions constitute a "hanging offence."

Minister Charlie Flanagan has told Midlands 103 radio that Deputy Halligan "probably knew he was wrong" but insisted he does not believe the scandal "warrants his resignation or sacking from government."

It comes after a woman was awarded compensation of €7,500 because the Independent Alliance minister of state questioned her about her family circumstances during a job interview for a position in his department.

Minister Halligan asked the woman if she was married, if she had children and what their ages were.

"As far as John Halligan is concerned, he was very wrong at that interview," said Minister Flanagan.

"I believe he probably knew he was wrong by starting the question by saying, 'I shouldn't ask you this question' and then he went on to do quite that.

"He very much regrets the incident and if he hasn't already done so he should apologise without qualification.

"I don't believe this is a hanging offence."

Apology

Deputy Halligan has since apologised and offered to pay the compensation out of his own pocket.

He has claimed was "simply trying to put the interviewee at ease" adding that he wanted to let her know that flexible working hours were available.

A number of opposition TD's have since called for his resignation - however Minister Flanagan said he does not believe that will be necessary:

"He has undertaken to pay in full the award of €7,500, I welcome that," he said.

"I would say perhaps it is the least he can do in the circumstances, but I don't think it is a hanging offence and I don't think it is one that warrants his resignation or sacking from government."

Employment equality

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that the interview question put the woman in a difficult situation and awarded her compensation.

Opposition TD's have warned that Deputy Halligan is minister of state at the very department responsible for the WRC and the State's employment equality legislation.

Earlier today Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the question was "completely unacceptable" adding that the junior minister should resign.

"I don't think his position is tenable having asked those question having had the WRC ruling against him," she said.

"So far, certainly, we haven't seen any recognition from him of just how serious it is for somebody in his position who is a junior minister, who has got responsibility for this area."

Asked if she thought he should resign his position as junior minister she said: "I think it does make his position untenable yes, I think that is what it will take."

Deputy Halligan is currently on a State visit to Thailand.

Gender pay gap

Meanwhile, a leading businesswoman has warned that women are often forced take off their wedding rings before heading in to job interviews.

Jewellery designer Chupi Sweetman was speaking as a month long campaign calling for gender equality in the workplace gets underway.

The ‘Dress for Success’ campaign has said the 14%  gender pay gap effectively means women are effectively working for free from today until the end of the year.

Ms Sweetman said women often feel they have to hide their age and relationship status in job interviews.

"When women come in to interview my friends tell me they take off their wedding rings, they take off their engagement rings," she said.

"You don't want to be a woman in your 30s interviewing because all an employer is looking at is the chance you are going to get pregnant and leave."