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Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh ‘disappointed’ as sexual harassment case against RTÉ is postponed

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh’s sexual harassment case against RTÉ has been postponed.

The Nationwide star had been set to begin her evidence before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on Wednesday.

The case has been delayed until September, after a number of key defense witnesses tested positive for Covid-19.

Pic Brian McEvoy

Claire Bruton BL, who is representing Bláthnaid, said on Wednesday: “My client is quite disappointed the matter was not able to proceed. This has been going on for a long time, and she was anxious to proceed.”

“She understands the position the RTÉ witnesses are in, and she is sympathetic, however she is anxious for it to proceed to finality.”

Bláthnaid lodged a complaint against RTÉ under the Employment Equality Act, alleging she was harassed while working at the station in 2019.

It’s understood the 51-year-old named a number of people in her complaint, and one of them is believed to be a “public figure”.

Picture: Brian McEvoy Photography

Up to a dozen other witnesses are set to give evidence in the case – but the WRC now says the press must not name any of them.

At the opening of a brief hearing on Wednesday morning, Mairead McKenna SC, who appeared for RTÉ instructed by Ailbhe Moloney of Arthur Cox, applied for an adjournment.

She said: “Unfortunately this matter cannot proceed in circumstances where a number of key witnesses have contracted Covid-19 and are therefore not in a position to be in attendance.”

Claire Bruton BL, appearing for Bláthnaid instructed by Aileen Fleming of Daniel Spring Solicitors, confirmed Ms McKenna had discussed the matter with her and that the adjournment was by consent, given the circumstances.

Picture Brian McEvoy

At a hearing last month, RTÉ’s lawyers sought anonymity for the alleged perpetrators and a direction to the press not to name them in the event of a “slip-up” by counsel.

The parties’ legal teams have agreed to use code names to refer to the alleged perpetrators in public session and the adjudicating officer, Breiffni O’Neill, said he was making direction to the press not to name them.

On Wednesday, Mr O’Neill said he would be issuing a further direction requiring that the media not to name any of the witnesses, adding: “That includes all of the witnesses for both sides.”

He said further that he would be excluding the public from the hearing room when the time came to hear evidence on what happened in a hotel following an alleged incident at a photoshoot in July 2019.

Pictures: Cathal Burke / VIPIRELAND.COM 

Mr O’Neill said: “There are a couple of high-profile individuals – notwithstanding any anonymity order I just don’t want their names to make their way out. They’re nothing to do with the incident, but their names should not come out.”

Ms Bruton said her client was likely to require between three and four hours to give her primary evidence and perhaps more.

The case has been adjourned to September 8, and is expected to run over the course of four days, but may go into a fifth.

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