Belfast Telegraph

Ex-City of Culture chief set to sue after he is sacked

By Donna Deeney

A former director of Londonderry’s Culture Company is taking legal action against his former employers after being suspended from his position.

Garbhan Downey was informed last week that he has now been sacked from the Culture Company after internal investigations.

The former director of communications will now pursue his grievance against the Culture Company through an industrial tribunal, which could take place with the next few months.

Mr Downey — who was stood down from the position in a dramatic announcement last October — has not ruled out other legal avenues against “individuals within Derry City Council and the Culture Company,” according to his legal representative Des Doherty.

Mr Doherty said: “This has been a frustrating time for my client as to date the chairman of the Culture Company Martin Bradley has consistently refused to correspond with my office.

“He even went so far as to write to my office to say he will not respond to any of our legitimate queries. The chief executive of Derry City Council, Sharon O'Connor, also refused to engage with my office and referred us back to the Culture Company.

“My own opinion is that this process so far has been deliberated prolonged so that my client had no avenue to air his views in public. We are now at the start of a process where my client can have his views aired in public but this is only the start.

“The matter will be fought and fought with some vigour. A leading QC has agreed to take on my client's case and Mr Downey's determination in respect of the case remains unshakable.”

The process to have Mr Downey dismissed centres around a letter written by Sharon O'Connor to Culture Company CEO Shona McCarthy.

In the letter Ms O'Connor outlined how the entire marketing staff of the Culture Company was to be transferred to council offices at Strand Road. The letter added: “This marketing transfer does not apply to the current Director of Marketing and Communications, Mr Garbhan Downey.”

The letter also states that the DCAL marketing budget which was £12.6m in total was included in the transfer. Mr Downey was highly critical of the move .

Mr Doherty said Mr Downey's criticism of moving the budget from DCAL to the control of the ‘Senior Responsible Officer', Ms O'Connor, was the catalyst leading to his suspension and dismissal.”

Derry City Council said it will not be providing any comment, and it would be more appropriate to contact the Culture Company.

A Culture Company spokesman said: “Culture Company does not comment on confidential issues pertaining to individual members of staff.”

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