Belfast Telegraph

Panel chair 'had no personal motive to sack Culture chief Garbhan Downey'

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

The chairman of a panel that ruled the former City of Culture marketing director should be sacked has rejected suggestions that he had a personal interest in the decision as insulting.

Brian Dougherty made his comments yesterday at the industrial tribunal of Garbhan Downey.

Mr Downey is claiming unfair dismissal after he was suspended from his role of director of marketing and communications at the Culture Company in March.

He was dismissed 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 £1.6m budget.

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.

Among Mr Downey's claims was that the outcome of his disciplinary hearing had already been predetermined.

In a statement Mr Dougherty, an independent member of the Culture Company, said: "I refute the allegation that the decision to dismiss the claimant was prejudged or predetermined or prejudiced prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing. I had no reason or motive to do this.

"I have been supportive of all staff of the Culture Company during my time on the board and I believe this is supported by the fact that I too disagreed with the suggestion that the marketing staff be transferred to council offices."

When asked if he had personal interest in the dismissal, Mr Dougherty responded: "Of course not, that is an insult to my personal integrity."

The Belfast tribunal heard Mr Downey's disciplinary hearing lasted roughly three hours, followed by a deliberation.

Mr Downey's barrister, Gerry Grainger, asked why there was no documentation of this stage.

Mr Dougherty, who said he and Mr Downey had a good working relationship, told the tribunal it was general discussion during which bullet points were taken.

When quizzed on whether a lesser sanction would have been appropriate, Mr Dougherty replied: "Our policy didn't allow any other outcome."

Mr Downey appealed this decision. But yesterday the chairman of the appeal panel – Brett Hannam, who was the director of the UK City of Culture Company – said there was "no evidence at all of any prejudice or bias".

The closing submissions will be heard next Wednesday.

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