Halligan remarks 'not a hanging offence', says Taoiseach

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended his decision not to sack John Halligan for his discriminatory comments to a woman he was interviewing for a job by saying the remarks are "not a hanging offence".

On Wednesday it emerged that Independent Alliance TD and junior minister for skills Mr Halligan asked a woman he was interviewing for a job if she was married and said the fact she has children "must keep you busy".

The woman, whose job application was ultimately unsuccessful, subsequently took a gender discrimination case against Mr Halligan to the Workplace Relations Commission, and was this week awarded €7,500 in compensation.

While Mr Halligan apologised for the remark and said he will pay the compensation money himself instead of it coming from his Department, he is continuing to face calls to resign.

However, asked about the controversy at the Fine Gael national conference in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan on Saturday afternoon, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there is no need for Mr Halligan to be fired because the remarks are "not a hanging offence".

"First of all I think what he said was absolutely wrong, it is absolutely inappropriate to ask anyone in an interview about their family status or marital status for that matter.

"It has gone as you know to the Workplace Relations Commission. The Workplace Relations Commission made a finding. He's [Mr Halligan] accepted that finding and is going to pay the bill himself, he's apologised and he accepts he was wrong.

"So I think that brings finality to the matter. I don't think it's a hanging offence, I don't think it would merit ending Mr Halligan's political career, but he does accept what he did was wrong," Mr Varadkar said.

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