Labour Court orders payment, but not reinstatement, of Ali Selim in unfair dismissal case

Ali Selim was awarded €7,500 by the Labour Court after his dismissal from Trinity in 2018 

The Labour Court has awarded €7,500 to Ali Selim, a former lecturer, after it ruled Selim that had been unfairly dismissed from his position as an Arabic lecturer following comments he made on RTÉ regarding female circumcision

Selim called for the maximum award of two years’ salary, which would amount to over €18,000, or for reinstatement to his position.

However, the Labour Court outlined that it did not see Selim being reinstated in Trinity as a practical option.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) had previously awarded Selim a total of €6,144, comprising €4,000 for unfair dismissal, €1,644 for non-payment of notice and €500 for not receiving his written terms of employment.

Selim argued that he was unjustly dismissed from his position as an Arabic teacher due to comments he made while on RTÉ in February 2018 regarding female circumcision. In an interview on Prime Time, Selim argued that female circumcision was appropriate in certain situations. 

In January 2018, Trinity created the position of full-time assistant professor in Middle Eastern History. Selim argued that this position was created to make the post of Arabic teacher unnecessary, prompting his removal from College. Selim applied for the position of assistant professor but was not given the job. 

Selim claimed that College tried to make his position unnecessary after calls for his dismissal from Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU).

Trinity argued that the classes Selim taught were not a primary component of any degree-granting courses, and that there was “insufficient student interest” in his Arabic elective for 2018/2019. Additionally, Trinity has stated that half of the classes previously taught by Selim are no longer offered. 

The Labour Court decided that Trinity did not make it clear enough that Dr Selim’s position was superfluous and that it is unreasonable that his responsibilities could be fulfilled by adding the position of a new assistant professor.  

Kevin Foley, Labour Court chairman, said that the court considered that Selim had suffered financial losses, but that it could not determine the extent to which Selim had tried to mitigate that loss, aside from saying that he had applied for teaching positions at other universities.

Selim said he was “thrilled” with the outcome and felt that it “confirmed” that his claim was “genuine”.

Following Selim’s comments on Prime Time, former TCDSU President Kevin Keane addressed a letter to Provost Patrick Prendergast which said that “a person who would advocate, openly and without shame, for a universally condemned, dangerous and evil practice whose sole purpose is to torture and subjugate, has no place in Trinity’s community of learning”. The letter called for Selim’s “immediate dismissal from any and all posts in Trinity,” and “a public condemnation of his stated position”. 

A College spokesperson at the time stated: “Trinity College Dublin utterly condemns female genital mutilation in all circumstances. Both the university’s teaching body and students believe that the practice is always wrong”.

Jessica Hobbs Pifer

Jessica Hobbs Pifer is a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Middle Eastern and European Languages and Cultures student.