The Phoenix magazine has apologised for advertising for an unpaid intern with five years experience after dismissing a journalist who was on medically certified sick leave with symptoms of the Covid-19 virus.

Eva Short gave up another job to join the Phoenix on January 6 of this year. The advertisement that she replied to stated:

"Goldhawk [a pseudonym used in the magazine] is looking for a keen accomplice to assist him in his eternal struggle against skulduggery, chicanery and boredom."

So if you have an inquisitive nature a healthy disregard for pretension, an interest in Irish personalities and their money-making schemes, and a desire to be involved with Ireland's most informative magazine, write today with all the relevant information about yourself."

The requirements for the full-time, permanent post included 3 years of writing experience, 2 years of journalism experience, and 2 years of editing experience.

However, in mid-March, Ms Short was medically certified to self-isolate for 14 days, as she was symptomatic and Covid-19 could not be ruled out. It subsequently emerged that she was suffering from standard flu. 

On March 19, while ill, she received a letter from Noreen Russell, the General Manager of Penfield Enterprises Ltd (which operates the Phoenix) telling her that she was being temporarily laid off for six weeks due to the downturn in business caused by the Covid-19 emergency.

On April 2, Ms Short received a second letter from Ms Russell terminating her employment with immediate effect, and wishing her well in her future career. Her personal belongings were boxed up by the company and couriered to her home.  

Ms. Short said she was initially very disappointed, but became perplexed when she later saw an ad on the "Indeed" website headlined "Urgently needed" for an internship at the magazine. It stated: 

"Goldhawk is seeking an online journalist to assist him in his eternal skullduggery, chicanery and boredom. 

This position requires the right person to post daily stories and updates on the The Phoenix website that are of interest to our readers. So, if you have an inquisitive nature, a healthy disregard for pretension, an interest in Irish personalities and their money-making schemes, and a desire to be involved with Ireland's most informative magazine, send us your CV today. This is a fantastic role for someone who wants to learn about the pulse of Irish current affairs."

However, this permanent, full-time, unpaid internship had an even higher set of skills requirements than Ms Short's paid post - including 5 years of writing experience, 5 years of journalism experience, and 5 years of editing experience.  

Last night on Twitter, Ms Short drew attention to her circumstances and to the posting of the ad for the unpaid internship. The Phoenix then posted the following Twitter apology: 

"It has been brought to Goldhawk's attention that an Ad on indeed.ie was posted with incorrect specifications for an Intern position at the Phoenix. This ad has been removed. We apologise for the data inputting error, and for any unintended offence it may have caused."

Speaking to RTE this afternoon, the Managing Director of Penfield Enterprises Aengus Mulcahy, whose father John founded the Phoenix, said the ad had been posted in error due to a mistake in cutting and pasting copy from another ad. 

He said the requirement for 5 years of experience for an unpaid internship was an "inputting mistake". 

He said the company could not afford to retain Ms Short, and that it had also been forced to make other cuts, as he expects the advertising market to return to "at best" 50% of its previous level when the emergency ends. 

Mr Mulcahy also noted that the Phoenix was not the only company to advertise for unpaid internships, and he felt it would be good experience for someone, for example, leaving university.