Belfast Telegraph

Minister offers to pay legal fees over interview question on marital status

Independent Alliance minister John Halligan has offered to pay legal fees as well as 7,500 euro compensation to a senior civil servant who he asked about her marital status in a job interview.

Mr Halligan, minister of state for training and skills, who has faced calls to resign over the affair, said he would also apologise in person to the woman if she wanted.

"I will not be found wanting. I will do the right thing," he said.

Mr Halligan was on an interview panel to select a new private secretary in May 2016 and claimed he had "good intentions" when he asked about her marriage and family.

The civil servant has 23 years experience and two children.

In a case successfully taken to the Workplace Relations Commission, she said she felt the questions were unfair and inappropriate and was awarded 7,500 euro compensation.

Mr Halligan, who is in Thailand on government business, told Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio: "I'm apologising sincerely.

"If I was to meet the lady I would say that to her."

Mr Halligan said he operates a family-friendly policy when appointing people.

He said he was stressed about the error of judgment and wanted to show he would accommodate a prospective private secretary and the frequent requirements for early-morning and late-night work.

Mr Halligan said: "My record championing women's rights is there for all to see. It would never be my intention to offend women."

He also claimed he asked the other two candidates the same question.

The Workplace Relations Commission found that one candidate volunteered information about spending time with his son at weekends and the third was not asked about their family.

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