Complaint | 

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh to tell Workplace Relations Commission she was sexually harassed at RTÉ

Ms Ní Chofaigh has lodged a complaint under the Employment Equality Act against the State broadcaster

TV presenter Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh

Stephen Bourke

Lawyers for broadcaster Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh say she was sexually harassed and victimised while working for RTÉ.

The TV presenter is set to give evidence about what she says happened at a public hearing next month – but the alleged perpetrators will remain anonymous by order of the Workplace Relations Commission.

Ms Ní Chofaigh has lodged a complaint under the Employment Equality Act against the State broadcaster, alleging discrimination by way of harassment during in July 2019 and subsequent victimisation.

“We absolutely deny all allegations against RTÉ,” said Mairéad McKenna BL, who appeared for the broadcaster at a preliminary hearing at Lansdowne House in Dublin 4 this morning (Wednesday), instructed by Ailbhe Moloney of Arthur Cox.

“My position would be that if it was to continue in public that a direction be given not to name the [alleged] perpetrators. What we’re really seeking is anonymity with respect to the [alleged] perpetrators,” Ms McKenna said.

Pictured: Blathnaid ni Chofaigh

Ms McKenna said RTÉ would be asking for a direction to be given to the press not to identify any alleged perpetrators in the event of a “slip-up” by counsel in the course of the hearing.

The adjudicating officer, Breiffni O’Neill, agreed to this course of action, adding: “I’d take a very dim view of a direction I give being ignored.”

Ms Ní Chofaigh did not attend this morning’s hearing but was represented by barrister Claire Bruton BL, instructed by Aileen Fleming and Jack Gibson of Daniel Spring Solicitors.

Ms Bruton said she had “no difficulty” with an instruction to the press not to name the alleged perpetrators but added: “My client is very keen for the matter to proceed in public.”

She made reference to an internal investigation report in which three individuals were named, one of them a “public figure”.

The adjudicator, Mr O’Neill, said an aspect of the claim concerning alleged comments made following a photoshoot would have to be heard in private session.

Ms Bruton said her client had been victimised and “sidelined in the office” after raising the issue.

Ms McKenna said there was duplication of proceedings in respect of High Court proceedings in the matter – with Ms Bruton responding that the Court of Appeal had held that a personal injuries claim and a statutory inquiry under the Employment Equality Act could progress in parallel – and that she would deal with the matter further in writing.

Ms Bruton said she would be calling two or three witnesses in addition to Ms Ní Chofaigh, who would require at least three hours to give direct evidence.

“I wonder if Ms Bruton would identify the additional witnesses she refers to,” Ms McKenna said.

“I’ll identify them in my submissions – Ms McKenna, you might do likewise,” Ms Bruton replied.

Five weeks have been set aside for the parties to make written submissions, with the case due to run for three days in late June.

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