Investigation to begin into alleged assault in Oireachtas unit

Senior counsel asked to investigate following claims by translation office members

The Oireachtas has appointed an independent external third party, senior counsel Cliona Kimber, to investigate a dispute between two members of staff. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Oireachtas has appointed an independent external third party, senior counsel Cliona Kimber, to investigate a dispute between two members of staff. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Houses of the Oireachtas has appointed a senior counsel to investigate allegations of threats and misconduct in the translation unit in Leinster House.

The Irish Times has previously reported on multiple grievances lodged by and against several staff members in Rannóg an Aistriúcháin, the Oireachtas translation office.

Fresh claims of assault have now been made by a senior member of the unit against one of their colleagues.

Correspondence seen by The Irish Times alleges a confrontation in the corridors of Kildare House, where the unit is based.

The individual in question wrote to the Corporate and Members’ Service Division of the Oireachtas alleging he was left in fear of his safety after the dispute.

The letter adds: “I feared the incident was going to continue and possibly end in physical violence. I found it very difficult as a result of this incident to continue with my responsibilities for the rest of the day.”

It goes on to claim the incident was a “dangerous assault on me in the course of my carrying out my official duties”.

Protective measures

The member asked the Houses of the Oireachtas to take “protective measures” to prevent a repetition of such a serious incident and to “protect me and others from the risk of a repeat” of the assault.

The co-worker involved in the dispute has also alleged he has been subject to several acts of ostracisation, has had their drawers and documents interfered with and has been at the centre of a campaign of “bullying, intimidation and stalking” led by the other member of the team.

The Oireachtas has now appointed an independent external third party, senior counsel Cliona Kimber, to investigate the dispute between the two members of staff.

However, it will not be expanded to include previous allegations made by individual members of the translation unit.

Impact had also requested the terms of reference for the inquiry be expanded to assess if the allegations by a member of the unit were made “maliciously, or are frivolous and/or vexatious”.

However, this was denied by the head of human resources in the Oireachtas Margaret Crawley, who stressed the investigation would be a fact-finding exercise and would centre on the allegations made by the more senior figure in correspondence to the Oireachtas.

The translation office provides the official translations of the Acts of the Oireachtas and translation of material for the Order Papers of both Dáil and Seanad.

Claims of stalking

Freedom of Information documents released to this paper had previously detailed claims of stalking, threatening correspondence, threats of disciplinary action and harassment within the unit.

The chief translator of the Oireachtas, Vivian Uíbh Eachach, contacted staff members after The Irish Times article to offer them his full support.

Mr Uíbh Eachach said he was willing to facilitate “face to face’” support to any staff member experiencing difficulties “regarding work-related matters or management of their life”.

It is understood 11 of the 21 translators have sought transfers from the office, while two staff are on long-term sick leave.

An Oireachtas spokeswoman declined to comment on the dispute in the unit.

She said: “Industrial relations issues as they arise in the workplace are dealt with under existing, agreed Civil Service procedures and mechanisms. The Houses of the Oireachtas service has a long-established policy whereby it does not comment on matters relating to its staff.”