Presidential aide claims bullying in the Aras

President Mary McAleese tonight distanced herself from a scandal involving a trusted aide who alleged she faced years of bogus disciplinary proceedings from senior officials at Aras an Uachtarain.

Mrs McAleese returned from a controversial visit to the Middle East as a female civil servant in her office claimed bullying, plotting and resentment was rife at the Aras.

Long-serving protocol officer and speech writer for the President, Bridget Conway, has taken High Court action in a bid to halt attempts by her superiors to discipline her.

Ms Conway, in a legal submission, has alleged a probe was instigated as a direct result of her close working relationship with the President and as part of moves to have her removed from the Aras.

She said relationships with senior staff turned sour after the President hugged her on her return from funerals of the Omagh bomb victims in 1998.

The case, due for hearing on Monday before Mrs Justice Mary Laffoy, is expected to last up to two days.

But a spokeswoman for the President insisted Mrs McAleese was in no way connected to the controversy.

“The President does not have any role in terms of personnel matters and administration of the Office of the President. Our policy would be not to make any comment on specific cases,” she said.

Ms Conway, from Celbridge, Co Kildare, who has worked in the Office of the President for 12 years, has become a trusted aide to Mrs McAleese, advising her, writing speeches and managing her day-to-day diary.

She alleged two senior civil servants resented her close working relationship with the President and contrived to instigate disciplinary action.

In particular, Ms Conway stated that Loughlin Quinn, Personnel Officer in the Office of the Secretary to the President and Brian McCarthy, Secretary General in the Office, disliked the relationship.

Ms Conway successfully fought an allegation of bullying in early 2004 from a female colleague at the Aras. She insisted the claim was baseless, and was competely exonerated in July 2005.

Shortly after the bullying claim was made, Ms Conway was informed that she was being investigated under the Civil Service Disciplinary Code for a number of matters.

All these allegations have been rejected by Ms Conway. It is understood a recommendation was made against her, but later quashed by a Civil Service appeals board. Following that the State took up the case, reconstituting the disciplinary investigation.

The High Court action has been taken against An Taoiseach, Ireland, the Attorney General, and Brian Spain, personnel officer at the Department of Defence who was charged with investigating the disciplinary matter.

Lawyers for Ms Conway will appear before the High Court on Monday in a bid to secure an injunction to stop the inquiry.

Much of the evidence is expected to be handed over in the form of affidavits. Ms Justice Laffoy is likely to reserve judgment.


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