Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Court refuses to dismiss Waterways Ireland 'whistleblower' claim

A top civil servant who lifted the lid on alleged mismanagement at a cross-border agency has won his latest High Court battle.

Brian McTeggart, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, is claiming damages against Waterways Ireland for alleged personal injuries, loss and damage. A Waterways effort to dismiss the claim was rejected this week.

The body has already agreed to pay its former corporate services director, who was sacked after lodging complaints about recruitment to senior positions, £50,000 as part of a so-called compromise agreement at an industrial tribunal.

Mr Justice Seamus Treacy told the High Court in Belfast: "This court will not lend itself to the exercise of a power the effect of which would be to undermine the express terms of a written compromise agreement freely entered into by the parties with the benefit of legal advice.

"Accordingly the application is refused."

Waterways Ireland had argued that the material being considered in the High Court was identical to that of his tribunal case and therefore had already been dealt with.

But the original tribunal ruling in Belfast said it had settled all claims apart from that in the High Court.

Compensation was agreed without an admission of liability against Mr McTeggart's former employers.

After joining Waterways Ireland, which manages, maintains, develops and restores inland stretches across the island, in 2000 he later made allegations concerning senior appointments, bullying and management of the organisation.

A failure of leadership, patronage, political influence from the Irish Republic and malpractice of appointments were also alleged.

This set in motion an investigation involving government officials on both sides of the border which lasted almost two years.

Mr McTeggart was told his offer of employment, which he could not formally take up due to the probe, had been formally withdrawn in March 2005.

Mr Justice Treacy said the compromise agreement at the tribunal must be followed.

"The defendant (Waterways Ireland) signed up to the clear terms of an Agreement to preserve the High Court claim.

"If this application, brought well over a year after the compromise agreement had been signed, were to succeed the first defendant would, in my opinion, be effectively permitted to renege on clause three of the agreement."

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