Former chief executive of gallery claims unfair dismissal


THE FORMER chief executive of a Dublin art gallery has claimed she was unfairly dismissed after the Arts Council reduced funding for the project.

Marian Lovett is seeking redress over being made redundant in August 2010 from her position as chief executive of Temple Bar Gallery and Studios Ltd (TBGS), the operator of a gallery and 30 artists’ studios in Temple Bar.

Ms Lovett, who was employed from 2001 by the company, claims her redundancy from the €48,000 a year post was a “ready-up job” and not genuine. In a hearing before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Ms Lovett alleges the board of the Temple Bar gallery excluded her from its plans to restructure the company following a January 2010 Arts Council decision to cut funding by 35 per cent from €370,000 to €240,000.

The board reduced staff numbers from five to three and, following a direction of the council, decided to deprioritise the gallery and to focus primarily on the studios.

The three new positions were filled internally but Ms Lovett, following a second interview for the new head position of studios development manager (SDM), was informed she had not been not successful. The board claims Ms Lovett adopted a “combative” stance at interview. She argues she merely sought but failed to get full details of the nature of the new post and the salary involved,

Yesterday, Kenneth Deale, the former chairman of the board, denied the SDM post was effectively the chief executive position with a new title and a lower salary of €36,000.

He said all within the company were shocked when informed of the cut in Arts Council funding and the board considered restructuring proposals advanced by Ms Lovett, which included staff salary cuts, as “tweaking” and not viable.

Claire Power, who was studios liaison and development manager with the company from 2008, said she successfully interviewed for the studios development post in 2010 and remains in that position.

She considered that as chief executive Ms Lovett had more of an “artistic director” role rather than studio manager.

She denied a suggestion by Michael Landers of the trade union Impact, representing Ms Lovett, that she (Ms Power) and two other staff had come together to “carve up” the three new posts for themselves.

John Buckley, an artist and academic, said that he was a friend of Ms Lovett and that he considered she had high standing in the arts community prior to the termination of her employment.

The matter had divided the arts world, however, and unless her case had a positive outcome he believed her ability to find full-time work in the arts here would be damaged.

The hearing continues today.