Irish Whiskey Museum must pay €22,500 to former manager

Museum boss had claimed estranged wife wanted to ‘line her pocket with money’

The Irish Whiskey Museum has been ordered to pay more than €22,000 to its former general manager following a finding she had been put under “unacceptable” pressure at work when her marriage to one of its co-founders broke down.

Nicola McDonnell said her estranged husband Keith McDonnell, a founding partner of the museum, “harassed, bullied, undermined and excluded” her from July 2020 onwards and that she felt she had been left with no option but to resign.

Mr McDonnell told a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing in August this year that his wife’s claim was “entirely financially driven to line her pocket with money”.

The museum has now been ordered to pay her €22,540 after the WRC upheld Mrs McDonnell’s complaint of constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 in a decision published on Thursday.


The McDonnells’ working relationship began to break down in July 2020 following Mrs McDonnell moving out and leaving her husband and the closure of the museum because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

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Although they were “still getting on” at work at first, Mrs McDonnell gave evidence of a series of disputes from July 2020 onwards which she said included not being allowed to be on the premises alone, being cut off from her email account during a row over stock and being threatened with the gardaí.

“The respondent said he’d call the guards,” Mrs McDonnell said, adding that he had called her a “common thief” and alleged she “stole whiskey”.

Mr McDonnell told the tribunal he had to threaten to get the gardaí in order to “get the whiskey back from the complainant”.

In an email opened to the tribunal dating from March 2021, Mr McDonnell told his wife: “I have more than enough of your actions to have you gone permanently.”

In August he wrote: “I find it difficult to see why you aren’t looking for other meaningful work ... Surely Welfare would like to see you back working? Any reasons why you’re not meaningfully looking Nicola?”

The company denied dismissal in the case, with Mr McDonnell stating that it was his belief that an employee “can’t go for unfair dismissal and claim redundancy”.

Mrs McDonnell said she had not received an agreed redundancy payment of €5,928.

Asked by adjudicating officer Roger McGrath whether he had paid, Mr McDonnell replied: “I’ll have to get back to you – off the top of my head I can’t recall.”

“You should have checked this. I presume a businessman like yourself would know if a payment like that would have been made,” Mr McGrath said.

In his decision, Mr McGrath wrote that the emails sent by Mr McDonnell “clearly demonstrate that the respondent no longer wished [Mrs McDonnell] to remain as an employee”.

“Such pressure is unacceptable in the employer-employee relationship,” Mr McGrath wrote.

He ruled that it was reasonable for Mrs McDonnell to resign, upheld her complaint and ordered the Irish Whiskey Museum Ltd to pay her €22,540 in compensation.