Judge rejects public servant’s claim transfer was unlawful

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan says Paschal Hosford saw himself as a whistleblower

A public servant who claimed he was a whistleblower has lost a High Court action seeking to have his transfer within the Department of Social Protection declared unlawful.

Paschal Hosford is a higher executive officer who, before his transfer, was a deciding officer in a section of the department which determines the employment status of people for Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) liabilities and their social welfare entitlements.

He claimed he was moved because he asserted the department operated an unlawful policy in relation to the classification of directors and shareholders of companies for PRSI purposes. In his action against the Minister for Social Protection, he claimed his transfer was made for an improper motive, amounted to a public rebuke and humiliation, and damaged his reputation.

Mr Hosford viewed himself as a whistleblower and threatened to disclose material to a range of bodies including the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Troika, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said when he dismissed Mr Hosford’s case.


The Minister had denied his claims and said he was using the transfer as a platform to ventilate his views on the law in relation to a policy on classification of working company directors/shareholders for PRSI purposes.

A department principal officer told the court, under the 2013 Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, individuals who own or control 50 per cent or more shareholding in a company in which they are employed and of which they are directors, are seen as self-employed for PRSI which attracts a different rate to that of an employee. Those with under 50 per cent are assessed on a case by case basis.

Mr Hosford appeared to have “taken it upon himself” to decide he would not implement this policy as he considered it unlawful, Mr Justice Noonan said.