Ex-rugby referee takes High Court action against IRFU

Man claims his purported dismissal is unlawful and in breach of his contractual rights

Former international rugby referee David McHugh has taken High Court proceedings against the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) over its decision to dismiss him from his employment.

Mr McHugh, employed by the IRFU since 1997 and who held the role of referee performance manager, claims his purported dismissal from his job is unlawful and in breach of his contractual rights.

The role involved coaching and managing IRFU referees for competitions including the PRO14, European Champions Cup and international test matches.

Mr McHugh is well known in rugby circles nationally and internationally, having officiated at major games including two European Cup finals and the 2003, 1999 and 1995 Rugby World Cups.


His counsel Marguerite Bolger SC told the High Court on Wednesday her client attended a meeting with IRFU officials on October 5th last where he was informed they had “some bad news” to impart.

Independent review

He was told, following an independent review of the referee department, the IRFU did not believe Mr McHugh was the man to lead it going forward, she said. He was informed his contract was to be terminated and he was fired.

In a sworn statement, Mr McHugh said he had believed the meeting was held to discuss his grievances concerning resourcing referees.

Prior to this, he had regularly complained about lack of resources within the referee department and that his workload had become stressful, he said.

He had been informed to await the outcome of a review into the referee department, which commenced in April, he said.

The dismissal decision left him feeling disgraced and humiliated, has affected his health and well being and he is already the subject of gossip and speculation, he said.

Mr McHugh, of Jacobs Island, Blackrock, Cork, secured a temporary injunction restraining the IRFU making any further publication relating to the purported termination of his employment on October 5th last.

The injunction was granted, on an ex parte basis (one side only represented), by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan who returned the matter to next week.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times