Belfast Telegraph

Sacked Derry City of Culture boss loses unfair dismissal case

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

THE sacked City of Culture marketing director has lost an unfair dismissal case after an industrial tribunal ruled he was the "author of his own misfortune".

Garbhan Downey claimed unfair dismissal after he was suspended in March from his £65,000-a-year post with the company responsible for organising Derry's City of Culture celebrations.

Mr Downey's solicitor Des Doherty said he was now considering an appeal.

He said: "The tribunal accepted he acted in good faith and throughout the process no one questioned his honesty or integrity."

At the centre of Mr Downey's dismissal was his release of a letter from October 3, 2012 to the media revealing how the Culture Company's 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.

During his industrial tribunal, Mr Downey said he had been acting in the public interest and claimed that the outcome of his disciplinary hearing had already been predetermined.

But a report from the tribunal found no prejudgment or unfairness about the the decision to dismiss him.

The panel said it was clear that there were tensions between the council and Culture Company over the re-allocation of budgets to specific events, and over who was responsible for particular events. But the tribunal found that Mr Downey already knew there was an issue over marketing and that the October 3 letter was not the first time problems had been raised.

They said the only new information in his letter was that Mr Downey personally was not included in the transfer to the council.

The tribunal said Mr Downey's reading of the letter – as "defamatory criticism" of himself that was "tantamount" to his dismissal – was "an unreasonable interpretation".

FACTFILE

Five key points from Garbhan Downey's industrial tribunal:

1. Mr Downey's failed to consult his line manager Shona McCarthy before going public with his letter and statement.

2. Mr Downey gave unsatisfactory evidence which was contradictory and evasive.

3. Mr Downey was "the author of his own misfortune".

4. The tribunal said it understood why the employer no longer had trust and confidence in Mr Downey.

5. It found it reasonable for the employer to have concluded Mr Downey knew it was a contentious matter.

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