Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh’s sexual harassment claim against RTÉ at the Workplace Relations Commission has been delayed until September after key defence witnesses contracted Covid-19.
The broadcaster had been set to begin her evidence today at a hearing in Lansdowne House in Dublin 4 — but only her legal team and that of RTÉ appeared.
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.
Ms Ní Chofaigh alleges discrimination on the grounds of gender by way of sexual harassment in July 2019 and subsequent victimisation — all of which is denied by RTÉ.
At the opening of a brief hearing this morning, Mairead McKenna SC, who appeared for the State broadcaster instructed by Ailbhe Moloney of Arthur Cox, applied for an adjournment.
“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,” she said.
Claire Bruton BL, appearing for Ms Ní Chofaigh 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.
At a hearing on May 4th, 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.
Today Mr O’Neill said he would be issuing a further direction requiring the media not to name any of the witnesses.
“That includes all of the witnesses for both sides,” he said.
He said 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 photo shoot in July 2019.
“There are a couple of high-profile individuals — notwithstanding any anonymity order I just don’t want their names to make their way out,” he said.
“They’re nothing to do with the incident, but their names should not come out,” he said.
Ms Bruton said her client was likely to require between three and four hours to give her primary evidence and perhaps more.
The matter has been adjourned to September 8th and is expected to run over the course of four days, but may go into a fifth.