Belfast Telegraph

I went public to protect staff, sacked Culture chief tells job tribunal

BY CLAIRE GRAHAM

A marketing guru at the centre of a legal battle has defiantly claimed he released a letter to the Press about plans to restructure his City of Culture department to protect staff, the public, his own reputation and a multi-million pound contract.

In a heated session of his industrial tribunal yesterday, former City of Culture marketing director Garbhan Downey claimed his "primary motivation for disclosure was in the public interest and specifically the money".

Mr Downey (right) is claiming unfair dismissal.

He was suspended from his £65,000-a-year post at the Culture Company after he released a letter to the media revealing how the marketing department was set to be transferred to Derry City Council, along with the staff and a £1.6m budget.

The money was part of a £12.6m funding package for the City of Culture that had been awarded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

The letter – from Derry City Council's chief executive Sharon O'Connor to the chief executive of the Culture Company Shona McCarthy – stated Mr Downey would not be part of the move.

Mr Downey told the tribunal he was acting in the public interest, not just for himself.

"There were other factors as regards protecting staff and colleagues," he said.

Under cross-examination from the barrister for the Culture Company, Conor Hamill, Mr Downey said he was the only one singled out in the letter and therefore in a position to take action.

At Tuesday's tribunal session Mr Downey claimed there was a plot to oust him from the job.

He told the tribunal that just days before he was suspended, he was warned that Ms O'Connor allegedly planned to "take Downey out" of the organisation.

Yesterday he slammed the disciplinary proceedings, claiming they were "tainted and flawed".

STORY SO FAR

June 2011: Garbhan Downey is appointed City of Culture marketing director at Culture Company 2013.

October 2012: He is suspended from his post after speaking to the media about changes to the Culture Company's £12.6m budget.

March 2013: He has his contract terminated.

March 2013: He begins work with Guildhall Press and Creggan Enterprises.

November 2013: Industrial tribunal begins as he takes a claim for unfair dismissal against the Culture Company.

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