Former political adviser awarded €55,000 over unfair dismissal from Contemporary Music Centre

WRC found ‘absolutely no procedure’ followed by publicly-funded organisation in case of Linda O’Shea Farren

An arts manager and former solicitor and political adviser, has been awarded €55,000 by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over her unfair summary dismissal by the Contemporary Music Centre.

At the start of the WRC hearing into the matter on June 20th last, the centre conceded Linda O’Shea Farren’s unfair dismissal claim and confirmed the issue for adjudication was appropriate redress.

She had been employed as projects, programmes and events manager at the centre, a small, publicly-funded organisation that describes itself as Ireland’s archive and resource centre for new music.

In a decision published this week, WRC adjudicator Kara Turner said “absolutely no dismissal procedure” had been followed by the centre.


She said it had ignored procedures in its own employee handbook, did not provide written reasons for termination and had a lack of regard for Ms O’Shea Farren’s employment rights and the implications of a summary dismissal.

Ms O’Shea Farren has worked as a lawyer in Ireland, New York and London, as a political adviser to former minister Nora Owen and as a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.

From February 2017 she worked at the Temple Bar-based centre, a registered charity funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

In her decision, Ms Turner stated: “To be absolutely clear, this was not a case in which summary dismissal, or otherwise, was justified.”

She said an investigation by an employment law and HR consultancy, carried out on behalf of the centre into allegations against Ms O’Shea Farren, had exonerated her and found she did not have a case to answer.

She was dismissed from her job on September 28th, 2022, the same day she was informed of this outcome.

She referred a claim of unfair dismissal to the WRC in January of last year, challenging the lawfulness of the decision on both substantive and procedural grounds and seeking reinstatement.

Both parties made written submissions and gave oral evidence in public hearings.

The centre argued reinstatement would not be appropriate and would be untenable. The adjudicator cited Section 7 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2015 and acknowledged the complainant experienced an injustice, both in the decision to dismiss and the manner of it, and was entitled to redress.

Ms Turner said she could not envisage “harmonious working relations” between the parties and found reinstatement was not appropriate.

The document outlines issues regarding a change in title and role; a request by Ms O’Shea Farren to take up an additional part-time job elsewhere, which was refused by the board; “fractures” in the employment relationship, and “tension and personal fallout between the parties”.

The adjudicator noted testimonials about Ms O’Shea Farren’s “reputation and high standing in the music community” and also said her evidence of “increasing negativity towards her during 2022 and the effect of the dismissal on her wellbeing, health and reputation was compelling”.

Ms Turner agreed with Ms O’Shea Farren’s representative that the factors raised by the centre were “low-level issues”, classifying them “as conduct-related is a stretch” and that they related more to employee relations.

If the employer had issues, it should have addressed them in the workplace and sought professional assistance to resolve differences, the decision states.

The WRC awarded compensation of €55,000 from the centre to Ms O’Shea Farren, based on €44,000 salary, loss and prospective loss of income.

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Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times