Newspaper chief refused injunction


Former Roscommon Herald chief executive officer Brian Nerney has been refused an injunction restraining Thomas Crosbie Holdings Ltd (TCH) from dismissing him.

Mr Justice Michael Peart also refused to direct that Mr Nerney be reinstated to the post with full pay until the High Court determines at a full trial whether or not he was unlawfully dismissed in breach of contract.

The judge also awarded Thomas Crosbie Holdings, which owns the Roscommon Herald, their legal costs but, on the application of barrister Peter O’Brien, counsel for Mr Nerney, put a stay on payment of the costs until all matters are determined at an early trial in the new law term which begins in October.

The judge was also told by Eoghan Foley, counsel for TCH, that the parties would have talks relating to Mr Nerney’s cashing of a €32,000 redundancy cheque without prejudice to any of his claims pending the full trial.

Judge Peart said in order to grant a mandatory injunction of the kind sought by Mr Nerney in relation to his employment it was necessary for him to show strong grounds for arguing the case and a strong prospect of success.

This was a threshold that surpassed the more normal threshold of raising a fair issue to be tried and even where a strong case was shown, the court was still not absolved from accepting whether or not damages would be an adequate remedy should Mr Nerney succeed.

The judge said it was not necessary to reach a conclusion on the strength or otherwise of any point and even if he were to decide that a strong case had been made out, which he was not deciding one way or the other, in his view damages were still an adequate remedy.

There was no evidence from Mr Nerney that without payment of salary he would be destitute pending the full trial. The court had heard that he had been paid out large sums of money in wages and alleged redundancy which was equivalent of nearly 12 months salary.

While Mr Nerney disputed the grounds on which the monies had been paid they had nevertheless been received by him which would make it difficult for him to argue he was impecunious.

Mr Nerney, of Carrick Rd, Boyle, Co Roscommon, who had sold the Roscommon Herald to Thomas Crosbie Holdings Ltd, claimed in July last he had been dismissed from his €80,590 a year position of chief executive which carried a €12,000 annual car allowance and an annual 7.5 per cent of salary pension contribution payable by TCH.

TCH argued it was entitled as of right to dismiss an employee where that employee’s position had become redundant or dismiss him in terms of his contract of employment.

The court heard TCH had been reviewing its operations to achieve cost efficiencies and the group had made 54 people redundant since 2011 and Mr Nerney himself had been involved in implementing cost cutting measures, including redundancies, at the Roscommon Herald.