K Club ex-manager claims he was threatened over call girl allegation

Court action taken against club, its owner Michael Smurfit and another employee

Peter Curran leaves the Four Courts on Wednesday after the opening day of his High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Peter Curran leaves the Four Courts on Wednesday after the opening day of his High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A former manager at the exclusive K Club claims he was threatened by another man at Punchestown Races that club owner Dr Michael Smurfit had “not forgotten” statements he had made previously about the businessman and call girls.

In High Court proceedings, Peter Curran claims the statement during the encounter with Gerry Byrne, a K Club employee, was a reference to another case he had previously settled relating to his own employment at the K Club, in which he had referred in a document to call girls being given free use of the hotel facilities at the five-star resort.

Mr Curran told the court that, in May 2011, he was at the dryer in the men’s toilets at the racetrack when Mr Byrne, a resort superintendent at the K Club, blocked his way.

“He said: ‘I have a message from Dr Smurfit.’ He said Dr Smurfit had not forgotten the statement I made about him and call girls and that he knows where to find you and this is not over.”

Mr Byrne said Dr Smurfit did not care about any agreement, Mr Curran said.

Mr Curran, of Cahirciveen, Co Kerry, has sued Gerry Byrne along with the K Club Ltd, Straffan, Co Kildare, and Dr Smurfit, who has an address in Monaco.

The defendants deny his claims.

The court heard Mr Curran had, in 2008, settled proceedings relating to his employment and his departure from the K Club 10 years previously.

The reference to call girls arose from “replies to particulars” – part of the documentary preparation process in legal actions – relating to the “A case”, the one settled in 2008.

Opening Mr Curran’s case on Wednesday, his counsel Kenneth Fogarty said the allegation was “hanging in the air”.

Counsel said Mr Curran was a sensitive, vulnerable person who had previously suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress over the circumstances in which he left his employment at the K Club in 1998.

Counsel said: “They didn’t care about Peter Curran but they do care about call girls.”

Part of the evidence would be that Michael Smurfit was “aware that it was taking place and [that] he was not unaccustomed to the company of call girls on occasions”, counsel said.

Mr Fogarty said the case related to what was going on in the K Club. It could close its eyes to an activity which was “criminal in nature and abusive to women”.

Unfair dismissal case

Mr Curran was catering manager at the K Club between September 1997 and October 1998 when he claims he was forced to leave. He later brought an unfair dismissal case which was settled in March 1999.

He also brought High Court proceedings claiming alleged breach to his constitutional right to his good name and to earn a livelihood.

During the run-up to that case, in replies to written questions and particulars relating to alleged financial irregularities that he allegedly uncovered at the K Club, Mr Curran made reference to call girls who allegedly were sometimes sourced abroad and allegedly were given free use of the hotel facilities at the K Club.

It is also claimed that he said in those answers to particulars that the owners of apartments unknowingly received rental income from the K Club as a result of call girls using the apartments.

Those proceedings were settled and it is claimed that it was an implied term of the agreement that Mr Curran would not be threatened, harassed or intimidated in any manner.

Mr Curran claims that, on May 7th, 2011, his way was blocked in the toilets at Punchestown Races and Mr Byrne allegedly made the “this is not over” comments.

All defendants deny the claims. Dr Smurfit and the K Club deny the incident took place but say, if it did, Mr Byrne did not act on their behalf or on their instructions.

Following an application on behalf of counsel for Dr Smurfit, which was adopted by the other defendants, Mr Justice Anthony Barr ruled he did not intend to allow the trial to “go completely off the rails” and engage in investigation of allegations made by Mr Curran against his former employers.

Earlier Mr Fogarty said Mr Curran felt he was being “blackballed” by the K Club after he left.

He set up a situation with a solicitor where, in the name of another man, he asked for a reference from the K Club for Mr Curran. Counsel said it came back that Mr Curran was not to be trusted.

The case continues.