Belfast Telegraph

Argento tribunal told witness has no recall of padlock discussions

By Mark Edwards

An architect involved in plans to turn Knockbracken reservoir into a watersports centre has said he was not party to conversations about padlocking a disputed gateway on the land owned by Argento jewellery boss Peter Boyle.

Claimant Richard Ferguson told an employment tribunal he was sacked by the Argento chief after refusing to padlock a gate at the reservoir which he claims would have prevented make-up artist Paddy McGurgan from accessing his home on the site.

Mr Boyle insists he dismissed Mr Ferguson from his job as a business manager for gross misconduct due to concerns over his demeanour and attitude.

On day three of the employment tribunal at Killymeal House in Belfast, Stephen Miskelly, a partner at Robinson McIlwaine architects, said he attended two meetings with Mr Boyle and Mr Ferguson about turning Knockbracken reservoir into a watersports centre.

He told the tribunal he was at a meeting on December 7 last year at Knockbracken reservoir with Mr Boyle and Mr Ferguson to conduct a site visit.

Tim Warnock, representing Argento, said: "It is the claimant's case that during the site meeting Mr Boyle instructed him to place a padlock on a gate on the Saintfield Road entrance and lock Mr McGurgan into or out of his property and to give that key to Mr Boyle so that Mr McGurgan would have to beg him for the key or to get access through the gate. Do you recall Mr Boyle instructing the claimant to lock that gate and not give a key to Mr McGurgan?"

"No, I don't recall that," Mr Miskelly said. "I do not recall the lock being discussed."

Mr Miskelly said he was also present at a meeting at his office in Belfast on August 31 last year with Mr Boyle and planning consultant Tom Stokes. Mr Warnock said the claimant alleged that during the meeting Mr Stokes disclosed what the claimant considered to be "confidential information" about a previous scheme he worked on to use the site for landfill. Mr Miskelly said he remembered Mr Stokes mentioning the previous scheme but said he was not aware if the information was confidential, adding he believed Mr Stokes had brought up the matter to show the client (Mr Boyle) he had previous knowledge and experience of the site.

Mr Ferguson, cross-examining Mr Miskelly, said: "It is my case that Tom Stokes produced a file of what I believe to be confidential information and it is my belief that everyone in the room understood that."

The hearing continues.

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