Goal founder secures court order


Founder and chief executive of aid agency Goal John O'Shea has secured an interim High Court order restraining any steps by the agency to suspend him or deal with his employment after alleging there is "concerted action" to remove him.

Mr O'Shea rejected complaints made by some Goal staff against him, including complaints of behaviour resulting in a culture of "institutionalised bullying", as "false and concocted", the court heard.

There appeared to be a "personality clash" between Goal chairman Pat O'Mahony and Mr O'Shea who had been told not to attend a board meeting of the agency last week where a vote to suspend Mr O'Shea was defeated by six votes to five, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told.

Mr O'Shea, who set up Goal 35 years ago, feared an effort to suspend him might be made at another meeting of the board fixed for 5pm today, his counsel, Paul McGarry SC, said. It was his view there was "concerted action" to remove him

Ms Justice Laffoy said she was satisfied to grant an interim order, returnable to Friday, restraining the taking of any steps at that meeting to deal with Mr O'Shea's position.

Mr O'Shea had raised a serious issue, and the balance of convenience was in favour of granting the interim order, she said.

As this was an ex parte (one side only represented) application made with no preliminary warning letter having been sent by Mr O'Shea's side, the judge said she would also give the defendant liberty to apply on notice to vary or discharge the order.

Mr McGarry said no preliminary letter was sent because Mr O'Shea only contacted lawyers on Monday after he had contacted some board members who told him they could not provide assurances to him and where he had scant information as to what was to happen at the board meeting.

Mr O'Shea just wanted "some breathing space" in circumstances where he feared the board meeting would repeat the effort to suspend his employment, counsel said.

Earlier, Mr McGarry said Mr O'Shea was told last week not to attend a meeting about which there was confusion whether that was a board meeting or not. Mr O'Shea, who normally attended board meetings, later learned the chairman had put a vote to suspend Mr O'Shea which was defeated by six votes to five.

This appeared to arise in circumstances where complaints by some staff members were put to Mr O'Shea last week and where a disciplinary inquiry was in place that, his side contended, was not properly established, counsel said.

There was a letter of complaint by some managers of Goal in relation to Mr O'Shea's general conduct and allegations were also made of a culture of "institutionalised bullying", counsel said.

Mr Hugh O'Flaherty - a barrister - had been deputed to set up a disciplinary sub-committee, the court was told.

No written particularised allegations had been put to Mr O'Shea, and two particular complaints referred to were false, untrue and not fresh but "concocted" by senior staff, counsel said.

Mr O'Shea had been involved with Goal for the last 35 years, had no recollection of signing a formal contract of employment and was in open-ended employment, counsel said. Mr O'Mahony was appointed chairman early this year, and Mr O'Shea was told he would have a less involved role in the organisation.

Mr O'Shea was seeking a declaration, in the absence of any findings of gross misconduct against him, there was an implied term his employment should not be unreasonably terminated. Mr O'Shea also alleged an agenda is being pursued against him.

Mr O'Shea had initiated the court action because he felt huge distress, stress and anxiety and this was all occurring with no regard to fair procedures, counsel added.