Airport security whistleblower drops ‘retaliation’ claim

Complainant told by adjudicator that aspects of his issue were ‘out of time’

A whistleblower who claimed he was penalised for reporting concerns that members of the Airport Police were misusing emergency protocols to 'bypass' security screenings and get airside has dropped a statutory complaint against the Dublin Airport Authority. Photograph: Alan Betson

A whistleblower who claimed he was penalised for reporting concerns that members of the Airport Police were misusing emergency protocols to “bypass” security screenings and get airside has dropped a statutory complaint against the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA).

The move follows a preliminary ruling by a Workplace Relations Commission adjudicator, who told former training manager Matthew Butterly that aspects of his statutory complaint under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 were “out of time”.

The DAA told the WRC on Monday that it was denying all allegations of penalisation by Mr Butterly, who had more than two decades’ service at various grades in the Airport Police and Fire Service when his employment ended in May 2023.

The WRC opened a hearing into Mr Butterly’s whistleblower claim after being told the parties had reached an “agreement in principle” on a second area of complaint referred under the Unfair Dismissals Act – with time being sought to commit the deal to writing.


John Cleary of the Siptu workers’ rights centre, appearing for Mr Butterly, said that before making his protected disclosures in May and June 2022, his client “never had any threat of disciplinary action against him” in a work history stretching back to 1998.

“After making protected disclosures, he began to experience what he came to understand as acts of penalisation or retaliation against him,” Mr Cleary said.

“Without delving too much into the details, Mr Butterly became aware of certain practices being engaged in by sergeants in the Airport Police to defeat the purpose of various security regulations, which you’ll hear about in due course,” Mr Cleary told the adjudicator.

“This group were bypassing regulations where they should have been screened going airside. [They were] only entitled to bypass where there was a ‘blue light’ emergency. Mr Butterly became concerned this wasn’t being adhered to,” Mr Cleary added.

The protected disclosures were made to a senior official at the DAA and to the Minister for Transport in May and June 2022, the trade union submitted.

Mr Cleary said his client was pursuing redress for five alleged acts of penalisation linked to these disclosures.

However, Niamh McGowan BL, appearing for the DAA instructed by A&L Goodbody, submitted that 11 per cent of all those eligible for the review had not benefited.

Mr Cleary said his client also maintained that he had been denied fair procedures in the handling of a dignity-at-work complaint, because the DAA had never provided an unredacted copy of an independent investigation report.

The investigator had made a finding of fact that Mr Butterly’s dignity at work had been “breached” on one occasion, the WRC was told.

Nothing was done on foot of the findings of the investigation, Mr Cleary said, arguing this too had been an act of penalisation.

“The respondent doesn’t dispute the history of the complainant’s employment or that he made protected disclosures [but] the allegations of penalisation are entirely disputed,” Ms McGowan said in reply.

She said that of the three acts of penalisation alleged, three of them were statute-barred as they were “manifestly out of time”.

“You don’t have jurisdiction to consider those,” Ms McGowan told adjudicator Conor Stokes.

The remaining two allegations concerned the handling of later complaints lodged against a HR manager and another named employee of the organisation in May 2023, and an April 2023 letter calling Mr Butterly to an investigation meeting over certain posts he had made on an internal messaging system used by the authority called Yammer.

The DAA denied penalisation in connection with these aspects of the complaint.

The tribunal heard that Mr Butterly had put in a data subject access request to the DAA in the autumn of 2022, seeking an unredacted version of the investigation report, before then referring the matter to the WRC in an Industrial Relations Act complaint, which was heard behind closed doors in April 2023.

Mr Stokes told the parties initially that he would reserve judgment on the time limits question and proceed to hear evidence on all five areas of complaint.

However, after rising for a time, he returned to the hearing room and said that he regarded the pay review aspect of the claim as being “out of time”, and said the same about the redacted report.

After a further recess, Mr Cleary said that he had taken instruction in light of what Mr Stokes had indicated about the question of time limits. “Mr Butterly doesn’t want to proceed with the Schedule 2 complaints at this time and is withdrawing them,” he said.

Mr Butterly later signed a withdrawal form addressing the Protected Disclosures compliant in the presence of the adjudicator.

The unfair dismissals complaint remains live on the WRC’s books pending confirmation from the complainant side.