Senior Cork GAA official challenges termination of employment

Diarmuid O’Donovan tells of shock over the decision to end his employment

Diarmuid O’Donovan secured a temporary High Court injunction preventing the termination of his employment. Photograph: Collins Courts

Diarmuid O’Donovan secured a temporary High Court injunction preventing the termination of his employment. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A senior official of the Cork GAA county board has secured a temporary High Court injunction preventing the termination of his employment. The action is by Diarmuid O Donovan, whose family are steeped in the organisation.

He has worked since 2013 as senior administrator of the Cork GAA county board, a €55,000 a year position established to assist the day to day work of the board while its County Secretary dealt with the completion of Pairc Ui Chaoimh stadium.

The revamped stadium project finished in 2017.

In a sworn statement, Mr O’Donovan said he was told late last year by the board his role was not ending.

However, in a three-minute meeting last week, he was told the role of senior administrator was to be discontinued and his employment ended on the grounds of redundancy, he said.

He was shocked by the decision and believed the attempt to terminate his employment was inseparable from the controversial costs overrun on the reconstruction of Pairc Ui Chaoimh, he said.

He said he believes the defendants have identified him with Frank Murphy, the former Cork county secretary, who before his retirement had overall responsibility for the Pairc Ui Chaoimh project.

The nature of his role involved him working closely with Mr Murphy, he said.

Mr O’Donovan, Mervue Lawn, Ballyvolane, also said he had unsuccessfully applied for the position of county secretary following Mr Murphy’s retirement late last year.

Mr O Donovan has also claimed that, in recent weeks, he has been marginalised and excluded from meetings and games he had previously attended. He said he had worked some 55-60 hours a week in the role and the redundancy is a “blatant” attempt to remove him from a role he successfully and effectively carried out and expanded for several years.

Prior to taking up the role, he was acting CEO with the Evening Echo Newspaper and believed he would continue in the role to retirement, he said. He claims the decision to discontinue his role must be formalised by the Cork GAA but that has not happened. He also claims he was offered a redundancy payment of approximately €20,000. On the same day he was told his position was to be made redundant, he claims a “wholly inappropriate” WhatsApp message was sent to all the members of the county board stating the role of senior administrator is to be terminated.

On Tuesday, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds granted Mr O’Donovan an interim injunction preventing Cork GAA county board, Cumann Luthchleas Gael, terminating his employment. The injunction was granted on an ex-parte basis (one side only present) and the matter was returned to next week. Seeking the injunction, Frank Callanan SC said Mr O’Donovan was initially hired on a fixed term contract in 2013 and had continued in his role well beyond the term of that contract’s expiration in 2016. Their claim is that Mr O’Donovan is an employee of indefinite duration, counsel said.