Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Justice has yet to take its course, says ex-BBC man Jerome Quinn

Jerome Quinn

Former BBC sports presenter Jerome Quinn insists “justice has yet to take its course” after his claims of sectarian bias were thrown out by an industrial tribunal.

The self-styled face of Gaelic games was sacked by BBC Northern Ireland last March after he was caught posting disparaging comments about colleagues on internet forums.

Mr Quinn had claimed his dismissal was unfair, alleging he had been the victim of “racial and religious harassment”.

But as revealed by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, a tribunal panel has ruled his claims should be dismissed in their entirety.

In the 28-page document, which was due to be published today, the three-person panel concluded the presenter was “fairly dismissed for gross misconduct”.

The panel accused Mr Quinn of being disingenuous, misleading and evasive, adding that he had been “a less than satisfactory witness”.

Speaking last night, Mr Quinn said he believed justice had not been done. “Justice has yet to take its course and I have been advised not to say anything more at this point,” he said.

The BBC also declined to comment on the report’s findings.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received the decision of the tribunal.

“However, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on that outcome until the findings have officially been made public by the tribunal.”

Many of Mr Quinn's allegations surrounded the conduct of BBC sports editor Shane Glynn, who was accused of not commissioning him for sports documentaries.

He also alleged that Mr Glynn tried to ensure a GAA player was not nominated for Sports Personality of the Year.

Mr Glynn — described as an impressive witness — told the Belfast Telegraph he did not wish to comment on the ruling.

During the case, which was heard in May, Mr Quinn alleged he was the victim of “Protestant and British prejudice”. He launched a scathing attack on his former employers, accusing the BBC of promoting “Protestant-supported sports” over Gaelic games.

He claimed the BBC subjected him to “racial and religious harassment” which left him “demoted, devalued and demoralised”.

But as a witness, the tribunal found Mr Quinn to be “evasive”, “disingenuous” and gave “misleading” evidence in his efforts to paint an adverse picture of GAA coverage by the BBC.

“At several points the claimant was evasive when being questioned on points which were not supportive of his case,” it found.

The panel was told how Mr Quinn had spent two years posting “offensive, negative and disparaging” remarks about his employer and colleagues on internet forums.

In her summary report, tribunal chairman Orla O’Murray said the BBC bosses were left with little option but to sack him. “The claimant was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct and the respondent complied with the statutory grievance and disciplinary and dismissal procedures,” she said.

Claims and counterclaims at the tribunal

BBC sports coverage

Quinn’s claim: Bosses at the BBC reduced prime-time coverage of Gaelic games and had a “negative approach to GAA reportage”. Quinn used two days in October to illustrate “disparity” between GAA and other sports coverage.

Tribunal Panel Response: October is the “high month” for rugby and Northern Ireland soccer. If Quinn had chosen June, the GAA would have been “in full swing” with widespread coverage, whereas rugby and soccer would have been very low.

Radio shifts

Quinn’s claim: He was put on early shifts soon after Shane Glynn’s appointment in 2006. He was “relegated” to radio shifts and was allocated “a disproportionate number” compared to his Protestant colleagues.

Tribunal: Quinn counted actual radio shifts together with all associated preparation shifts and coverage of live events. When a consistent method was used across all employees, five colleagues — all of them Protestant — had been allocated more shifts.

Documentaries

Quinn’s claim: Of the 23 sports documentaries produced between May 2006 and September 2009, not one were made by him.

Tribunal: He “exaggerated statistics to his own end”. Only 12 of the documentaries were made during Quinn’s time in the department, the other 11 were produced while he was suspended or had been dismissed. Of the 12 proposed, six were by Catholics and six by Protestants.

Swearing outburst

Quinn’s claim: A Protestant member of staff was not disciplined for swearing at him, yet he had been disciplined for swearing at a colleague 15 months earlier and received a formal, verbal warning.

Tribunal: The two situations “were not comparable”. Quinn accepted the previous incident involved a colleague who made a formal complaint, however Quinn made no complaint over the second incident.

Sports Personality of the Year 2008

Quinn’s claim: Attempts were made to skew sports coverage including “moves to influence voting” for the 2008 Sports Personality of the Year. He claimed Shane Glynn had tried to remove a judge who was “too supportive” of GAA.

Tribunal: Rejected Quinn’s allegations, stating they illustrated his “extreme sensitivity to any perceived threat to anything relating to GAA”.

“Too much GAA”

Quinn’s claim: Acting on behalf of a senior staff member, Shane Glynn spoke to him to say there had been “too much GAA” in a broadcast.

Tribunal: “In our view Shane Glynn was acting as a responsible manager in drawing a concern to the attention of the claimant.”.

The Championship

Quinn’s claim: The decision to remove him from fronting The Championship on TV to radio had been detrimental to his career.

Tribunal: Accepted that Quinn was moved for “valid reasons completely unconnected to the fact that he was Catholic”. The tribunal did not accept that Quinn’s move to radio “was necessarily detrimental to his career”.

Quinn background

Once the self-styled face of BBC Northern Ireland's GAA coverage, Jerome Quinn became a familiar face on TV.

The Omagh man presented The Championship, the corporation’s flagship Gaelic games programme, for 17 years. He was replaced in 2008 by Austin O’Callaghan.

Mr Quinn was sacked last year after it emerged he used a work computer to post disparaging comments about colleagues on GAA forums.

Shane Glynn background

Prior to being appointed BBC Northern Ireland’s sports editor in 2006, Shane Glynn had been a senior broadcast journalist.

Described by the tribunal as a Protestant with a mixed religious background, Mr Glynn’s father was a Catholic from Cork and an avid supporter of the county’s GAA teams.

He was instrumental in securing GAA broadcast rights for the BBC during the 2007/08 season.



Telegraph highlighted presenter’s postings

It was the Belfast Telegraph which first alerted the BBC to Jerome Quinn's bizarre online behaviour as far back as September 2001.

Quinn decided, rather oddly, to attend the Northern Ireland v Iceland World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park wearing a Tyrone GAA shirt.

He posted his subsequent observations onto the BBC's own website.

These included:

  • “It would be dishonest of me to describe myself as a NI supporter.”
  • “There is little encouragement for a neutral or nationalist to go along and support Northern Ireland.”
  • “It struck me that there were no other Gaelic fans in the North Stand, and that no-one wanted to be conversing with ‘the boy who does the GAA'.”
  • “”When the goals started to flow, two dozen fans took their tops off . . . but did the guy at the back really need to carry a Union Jack? Actually, he did need to carry it because he wanted to let me know that this was HIS team that was winning . . . not mine.”

Extracts were subsequently reproduced in the Belfast Telegraph and caused a storm of protest, with hundreds of fans voicing their anger online.

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