(Note – Sorry for the disappearance. Rewrote the article slightly. Please note that every comment I make about the company in question is derived from testimony that is publicly available on record from employment tribunals, coroner’s courts, newspapers and the Press Council.)
The above text is from the Irish Times apology to the Communications Clinic, a PR firm run by influential PR maven Terry Prone and her son Anton Savage, dated Saturday Dec 2, 2011. Reading it was one of those watershed moments in my life. From then on, I was deeply, irrevocably radicalised against a particular Irish polity and society.
The apology was in response to an article written anonymously by Kate Fitzgerald, who died in August 2011 and whose article was posthumously published in September in the paper. At the end of her life, Kate was a PR consultant at the Communications Clinic but she was so much more than that. A passionate debater, admired and loved by many, a political advocate and a stalwart of Democrats Abroad (her mother is American), she was in the eyes of contemporaries destined for success in spite of spells of severe mental ill-health which she dealt with as best she could.
This day, the first Sunday of Advent in 2021, marks a decade since Kate Fitzgerald’s identity became known and the Irish Times redacted several paragraphs of her article, specifically those pertaining to allegations about her then employer’s behaviour towards her at work and its obligations under employment law when it came to mental illness, recovery and accommodating same. (It’s worth noting that the interviewers for her next position, a position she died before she could start, were deeply impressed by her presentation and professionalism and were about to hire her on the spot.)
The paper has never apologised to its readership for its apology to the company, even though this caused widespread offence and hurt and was subject to a Press Council Complaint. The Communications Clinic, although it has settled another Employment Appeals Tribunal action an employee took against it for bullying and poor treatment has never troubled itself to make a public statement about the loss of their employee, Kate Fitzgerald. Having read some articles about what happened and various witness accounts in the above public records, the lack of compassion and common decency shown here, if true, disgust me – and Prone’s appalling response to enquiries about the Tuam babies scandal in 2014 suggests that the witness testimony is not off the mark.
And knowing what they did, the Irish Times apologised to these people. And said the above text at the head of my piece.
At the time, I wrote this piece and others, but when my first novel came out, I was advised to stop. I deleted a few entries as a result. But while life has moved on and people have moved out of, and into my life, I have never forgotten Kate’s story. How she, an outsider, a foreigner of sorts, could never be good enough for Them. How even with her intelligence, her radiance, her acumen – They still defeated her. Because They were insiders and she was not and so all that radiance and intelligence and charisma didn’t count. And now we are deprived of someone who could have made life better for us, and stuck with individuals who have already – I think I can safely argue from the above – made our country’s discourse a fair bit worse.
Rest well, Kate Fitzgerald. I promise to never stop being awkward.