Halligan urged to provide Dáil explanation on interview controversy

Joan Burton says Deputy Halligan must make a ail statement "at a minimum"

Halligan urged to provide Dáil explanation on interview controversy

File photo: Former Labour Leader Joan Burton TD, 04-10-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

A former Tánaiste has urged Independent TD John Halligan to explain his actions in the Dáil following controversy over questions he asked a woman in a job interview.

It emerged yesterday that a woman was awarded compensation of €7,500 because the Independent Alliance minister of state questioned her about her family circumstances.

Deputy Halligan has since apologised and claimed he wanted to know if she was married so he could be flexible with her working hours.

Explanation

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, former Tánaiste Joan Burton welcomed the apology but said that "at a minimum" he needs to come before the Dáil and explain himself:

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"In interviews there are personal preferences and you click more readily with one person rather than another," she said.

"But their marital status? To be perfectly honest, I think most women just groan at the thought of that - as in here we go again.

"Would you even ask a man, 'have you a girlfriend, have you a partner?' I mean if you asked a man that, what is that about?"

Discriminatory

The Workplace Relations Commission yesterday ruled that the questions put the woman in a difficult situation, and awarded her compensation.

Deputy Halligan is currently on a State visit to Thailand - however he has told his Independent Alliance colleagues that he is considering paying the fine out of his own pocket.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, the current Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said she was "disturbed and disappointed" when she heard about the issue - but added that she accepts the minister of state's apology:

"In relation to the fine, the obligation falls on the department to pay that fine," she said. "That is the situation."

"Whatever approach Minister Halligan takes to that, I am sure no doubt that when he returns on Sunday - he is abroad at present - that he will give a more detailed statement."

Discrimination

Deputy Burton told Pat that it is important that Deputy Halligan makes a statement in the house, "for the sake of other people who will be carrying out interviews so that we can have a conversation about it."

She said the questions immediately make a woman feel, "'well this isn't really about do I fit this job, this is about do I have kids.'"

"Does it mean then that perhaps somebody who doesn't have those obligations, or if a man comes in and sits in the chair - this could be a hassle free employee because this person doesn't have these complications?," she asked.

She said it is never acceptable to ask men and women different interview questions:

"I think for a lot of younger women who can be bullies online for instance by their peers as much as facing difficult situations, I think it is really important that they are empowered.

"That if they want to work in a particular area - they have the passion, the drive, the energy - their gender and the fact that they are women shouldn't mean that they are looked at in a lesser way than someone who is a man.

"A lot women came up through an environment where it was difficult - it doesn't mean that all men are like that, far from it."

She said Deputy Halligan's position is a matter for himself and for his Independence Alliance colleagues - but warned that it is "essential" that the public is aware that that there are standards in place and that those standards are being adhered to.