Archbishop denies employing reverend in legal row

Rev Obinna Ulogwara seeks injunctions preventing termination of his employment

Rev Obinna Ulogwara has asked the High Court for injunctions preventing Church of Ireland Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson from terminating what he contends is his employment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Rev Obinna Ulogwara has asked the High Court for injunctions preventing Church of Ireland Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson from terminating what he contends is his employment. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Church of Ireland Primate and Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has denied ever being the employer of a Dublin-based Anglican minister.

Rev Obinna Ulogwara has asked the High Court for injunctions preventing Dr Jackson from terminating what the reverend contends is his employment.

He wants the injunctions pending the full hearing of his proceedings aimed at preventing what he claims is the termination of his employment.

The proceedings were taken after a decision last month to annex the Dublin parish where Rev Ulogwara had worked for seven years.

In opposing the application for the injunctions, the archbishop’s lawyers argued the plaintiff is not and never could be considered an employee of Dr Jackson or the church.

On Thursday, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy adjourned the matter to Friday to allow Rev Ulogwara’s side produce a sworn affidavit from Dr Jackson’s predecessor, Dr John Neill, which they say is relevant to their application.

A Church of Ireland priest and bishop’s curate, Rev Ulogwara worked at the parish of St George and St Thomas in Dublin’s north inner city.

That parish was abolished last month and amalgamated with the neighbouring North Strand parish due to a lack of funds.

Rev Ulogwara claims that, following that decision, he sought assurances from the archbishop about his future, but was not given those.

He claims the absence of assurances has damaged his well-being and integrity and amounts to a breach of his contract of employment.

He also fears he will be left without a ministry, employment, and, potentially, a place to live.

As a bishop’s curate, he cannot be removed from office unless he is offered an equivalent position somewhere else, he claims.

Orders

Rev Ulogwara is also seeking orders requiring the defendant to continue to pay him.

Tom Mallon BL, for Dr Jackson, said there was no evidence his client is Rev Ulogwara’s employer or the plaintiff is an employee of the diocese.

Rev Ulogwara was not an incumbent at the now former parish and did not have tenure there, counsel said.

Mr Mallon said the reverend’s position was similar to “an academic without tenure” and his stipend did not come from the archbishop, but rather from funds raised in the former parish.

There was no question about Rev Ulogwara’s commitment or his ability and he had been encouraged to apply for forthcoming vacancies within the church, counsel added.

The court heard Rev Ulogwara receives an annual payment of €39,000, plus allowances of €10,000, and that his family lives in accommodation in Lower Drumcondra Road provided by the church.