Former chief executive Jerry Henchy gives evidence in action against Dairygold

Mr Henchy begins evidence in his continuing action against Dairygold Co-operative Society Ltd over the alleged termination of his €582,000 a year job

Former Dairygold chief executive Jerry Henchy has told the High Court he did not have a relationship of "total trust" at all times with the society's chairman, Vincent Buckley, after Mr Buckley took up that position in 2008.

Mr Henchy also said he believed Mr Buckley had tried to link Mr Henchy’s disapproval of Mr Buckley’s refusal some years earlier to sign a code of conduct for Dairygold board members with issues related to Mr Henchy’s remuneration. Those were separate issues and he disagreed with such an approach by Mr Buckley, he said.

He was disappointed a private conversation between him and the society's vice-chairman, Patsy Kelleher, was raised by Mr Kelleher at a board meeting. That conversation, in which he told Mr Kelleher he considered there would be difficulties working with a Dairygold chairman who refused to sign the code of conduct, was confidential, he said.

In making his comments, he was not seeking to influence the election of chairman although claims to that effect were later made at the board, he said. Mr Buckley had told a board meeting he considered Mr Henchy’s remarks as “personally hurtful” and “outrageous”, the court heard.


Mr Henchy also said he considered media reports of matters discussed by the board showed matters were being leaked to journalists on a regular basis. Board meetings had been moved to different days in an effort to prevent leaks to the Farmer's Journal, he said.

Mr Henchy (48), a father of three from Kilmallock, Co Limerick, yesterday began his evidence in his continuing action against Dairygold Co-operative Society Ltd over the alleged termination in January 2009 of his €582,000 a year job, plus bonuses and allowances. He has not worked since.

He is suing for some €8 million damages alleging his employment as chief executive was wrongfully terminated for “spurious” reasons purporting to relate to some €159,000 being owed on his personal farm account with Dairygold.

The real reason arose as a result of an orchestrated campaign involving the company’s chairman, Vincent Buckley, and others, he claims. Various members of the board were either objectively or, in the case of Mr Buckley and Bertie O’Leary, subjectively biased against him, he claims.

The damages claim includes a claim for alleged defamation, libel and slander. He claims his professional and personal reputation was damaged by the alleged leaking to the media by someone within the society of the January 19th, 2009 minutes of meetings of the Dairygold board and of its audit committee. That alleged leaking, he claims, led to reports suggesting his employment was terminated due to misconduct and financial irregularities.

His counsel, Patrick Hanratty SC, said yesterday it was their case that the raising of the overdue farm account with the audit committee happened "very suddenly" in circumstances where no issue was previously raised about Mr Henchy's account. The raising of the account was "a stunt", he argued.

Position untenable
While Mr Henchy had cleared his account in full after the issue was raised, the termination of his employment proceeded, counsel said.

After a board meeting, Dairygold wrote a letter to Reox Holdings plc, a related company, terminating Mr Henchy's contract for services. Reox then purported to make him redundant and he had to accept his position in Reox was rendered untenable by what happened in Dairygold.

The consequence of the decisions by the Dairygold board on January 19th and January 26th, 2009 was to bring about a termination of his employment, counsel said.

Dairygold denies the claims, contends there was an issue about Mr Henchy’s farm account prior to January 2009 and denies any leaking of board minutes.The case continues.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times