John Halligan to pay €7.5k for gaffe

Independent Alliance TD and junior minister for training and skills John Halligan has said he will cover the cost of the €7,500 fine and associated legal bill over his “are you married?” interview gaffe.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner from Thailand, Mr Halligan insisted he would “not be found wanting” when it comes to the money and he restated his apology to the female official, who it was found he had discriminated against.

Mr Halligan said it was purely his intention to relax the interviewee and put her at ease, but he accepted his error and said he was hurt by the fallout.

“That was all I was trying to do. It was a mistake, a genuine mistake,” he said.

Mr Halligan said he was not a “professional interviewer”, but he did not hold anyone else responsible.

“It is my responsibility; it is my mistake... The buck stops with me on this.”

He said he would “do the right thing” and would pay costs and the settlement award set down by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). He said that on his return from Thailand he would write to the WRC to see what was possible.

He said he had a record of championing women’s rights and that he would have no problem meeting the candidate involved to apologise.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio to Sean O’Rourke, Mr Halligan said he asked male candidates the same questions during the interview and “didn’t do this deliberately”.

Meanwhile, the minister’s brother has criticised the WRC decision to award the €7,500 to the civil servant.

Brendan Halligan, who also serves as the election agent for John, described the ruling as “fundamentally wrong” and said he does not believe his brother should foot the bill.

In an interview with Eamon Keane on WLR radio, Brendan Halligan cited a number of areas of trauma, such as rape and abortion, saying that his brother has always stood up for victims.

He said the WRC ruling was fuelled by what he described as a “claims culture” in Ireland. While insisting that his brother’s comments were “wrong” and “careless”, Brendan Halligan said it was the incorrect decision to issue a €7,500 fine.

Earlier, OPW Minister Kevin “Boxer” Moran said Mr Halligan made “a vast mistake” in asking discriminatory questions.

Mr Moran said he wanted to apologise to the family involved on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the Independent Alliance.

While he did not condone what Mr Halligan did, he said it was not appropriate for Mr Halligan to resign.

“He has apologised. John is a decent guy and no person is more hurt than him. We have to accept what he said and move on,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Moran also said he was “deeply hurt” and “embarrassed” when he heard of plans for a North Korea peace mission by members of the Independent Alliance.

He said he learned of it in the media last week and he was annoyed. He confirmed the peace mission proposed by his Alliance colleagues was not going ahead. “I was embarrassed, as it’s something I didn’t condone,” said Mr Moran. “We had meetings over the last couple of days. We had a constructive meeting and the trip to North Korea is off the agenda.”

He said the Independent Alliance were all individual independents and had differing views on issues.

Mr Halligan also acknowledged that a trip to North Korea was off the agenda.

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