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26 years ago and the threat still hangs over some

September 10th, 2008 · 10 Comments · Feminism, Irish Politics, Religion

In 1982 Eileen Flynn lost her job. The reason for her dismissal was that she was pregnant, unmarried and the father of her child was a married man. Eileen was a teacher in a convent school in New Ross and the school asked her to resign and said it would given her 3 months pay. The news of her pregnancy had followed several months of whispering and vocal opposition to her relationship. She refused to resign and they sacked her.

She took them to an Employment Appeals Tribunal and she lost. The case then went to the High Court where it ruled that Flynn’s pregnancy and relationship “…was capable of damaging [the nuns’] efforts to foster in their pupils…religious tenets the school had been established to promote.?

Eileen eventually returned to teaching in Wexford some years ago having married her partner and it is with great sadness that I heard that she died yesterday at the age of only 56. She is survived by her husband and their five children.

Eilleen had the support of many trade unionists, women and human rights activists at the time. While I understand her reasons to remain private subsequently I do hope that someone brings together some of the archive material to document the case and pay a tribute to her memory and the battle she fought to reclaim her job.

It’s still possible to be sacked from your job if something about your private life might contravene the religious ethos of the workplace (school, hospital etc.). It’s been deemed to be constitutional – and I wonder if the voices of protest might be louder if it happened now.

Update: Irish Times report on Eileen’s death and includes some commentary from the time and a quote from an interview she gave in 1999.

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