Teacher at Church of Ireland school wins discrimination payout

15 January 2016

COMMONS

Tribunal: St Paul's National school, Collooney

Tribunal: St Paul's National school, Collooney

A RESOURCE teacher at a Church of Ireland primary school has been awarded €3000 by the Irish Equality Tribunal, which found in her favour on grounds of religious harassment and discrimination because her son was gay.

The teacher, Bernadette Marron, who is a non-practising Roman Catholic, told the tribunal that she had worked at the C of I St Paul’s National School, in Collooney, Co. Sligo, for seven years. She alleged that the principal had criticised her son’s sexual orientation.

The complainant also alleged that the principal was disparaging about a speech the boy had made at his secondary school, and questioned what kind of mother she (Ms Marron) was, to have a son dressed in a pink blazer for the occasion.

The tribunal was also told by the complainant that the principal made negative remarks about RC children attending a C of I secondary school, and identified C of I churchgoers as "our children" and "the right people".

Ms Marron said that she had felt repeatedly undermined, and had complained to the school Board of Management in 2013, but the matters had not been dealt with properly by the school. She sought only an acknowledgement that what had taken place was wrong.

The principal denied Ms Marron’s allegations. She said that she had never discriminated against her.

The chairman of the Board of Management said that the board had responded as best it could to the allegations. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke.

The tribunal found as fact that the principal made the derogatory remarks as alleged, and that the use of the terms "us" and "our", regarding people of other denominations, was harassment. It further found that remarks made concerning the sexual orientation of Ms Marron’s son and parenting damaged her dignity at work, and amounted to discrimination by association.

The financial award of €3000, though not sought by the complainant, was made because, the tribunal found, the case would have attracted a significant sum in damages in the ordinary course of events.

Neither Bishop Rooke nor a diocesan spokesperson were available to comment.

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