Press Centre

Domestic Workers Seek Justice from South African Ambassador before her Departure from Ireland

PRESS RELEASE: 26 November 2009

This evening members of the Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) are gathering in front of the South African Ambassador’s residence in Dalkey where ambassadors and foreign diplomats are amongst the 200 guests invited to her farewell celebration. The group is protesting against the decision of the former Human Rights lawyer, Ambassador Priscilla Jana to invoke diplomatic immunity in a complaint taken against her by domestic worker, Valentyna Khristonsen, employed in the residence between 2006 and 2008.

Ms. Khristonsen, who is represented by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), claims that her employment rights were violated and lodged formal complaints against Ambassador Jana with the Labour Relations Commission, including breaches of the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Payment of Wages Act, and the Organisation of Working Time Act. The question of jurisdiction has been under consideration by the Rights Commissioner since the hearing on November 4.

“It is utterly shameful that the Ambassador is still hiding behind diplomatic immunity and that she is leaving the country, denying Valentyna her basic right to have her grievance heard,” says Anele Jakiel of DWAG.  “Foreign diplomats are supposed to be representing their country in the highest regard and we would expect that they respect Irish laws and afford their employees due process.  Regardless of the place of employment, all workers should be able to avail of this right, including workers employed in embassies.”

Siobhan O’Donoghue director of MRCI says, “We have others cases involving diplomats and domestic workers.  Diplomatic immunity was not intended to be used to deny workers their basic right to due process. We are urging the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Michael Martin to introduce a protocol in which embassies would agree to waive their right to diplomatic immunity in complaints taken by employees to afford workers their basic rights.”

DetailsThursday, 26 November 2009, 5.30 pm, ‘Sunnyside’, Vico Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin

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Note to editors:

All diplomatic agents of embassies in Ireland, including their spouses and families, are granted diplomatic immunity in accordance with the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967. This Act incorporates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, into Irish law. The convention also provides for this immunity to be waived by the sending State at any time.

The Domestic Workers Action Group, an initiative of MRCI, was established in 2004, and is currently made up of over 200 women fighting for the rights, dignity and recognition of all workers employed in the private home in Ireland.