Gormley intervened in DCU row, tribunal told

 

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley intervened in a disciplinary dispute between DCU and a lecturer at the university, when he was a Green Party TD, an Employment Appeals Tribunal has heard.

Mr Gormley in 2002 contacted the president of DCU, Ferdinand von Prondzynski, on behalf of computer applications lecturer Dr Seán O’Nuallain. Prof Prondzynski told Mr Gormley it would be unethical to discuss the case, the tribunal heard.

Dr O’Nuallain’s employment with the university ended in June 2002. The tribunal is hearing an appeal by DCU against a 2003 Rights Commissioner decision Dr O’Nuallain be reinstated to a permanent position at the university.

The university maintains it did not terminate Dr O’Nuallain’s employment in 2003 as he had “repudiated” his own contract by absenting himself for prolonged periods from the university, failing to carry out his duties, failing to turn up for meetings and failing to respond to contact from the university. His behaviour meant he had effectively resigned, it said. Dr O’Nuallain says he did not resign and was constructively dismissed.

The tribunal heard that Dr O’Nuallain forwarded unopened correspondence from the university to Mr Gormley asking that he read the contents and then forward it to Siptu, Dr O’Nuallain’s representative union.

When asked by counsel for the university Tom Mallon why he felt the intervention of a TD necessary, Dr O’Nuallain said the harassment he had been subjected to by the university had reached the stage where it was a public interest issue. “Because there was victimisation going on here. I was having the harassment of people dropping in letters by hand to my home at 10.30 on a Friday night . . . hiding in the bushes.”

Mr Mallon said Prof Prondzynski e-mailed Dr O’Nuallain to say while he had the greatest respect for Mr Gormley it would be “quite unethical” to discuss the matter with him. In the e-mail Prof Prondzynski said he made this clear when Mr Gormley had telephoned him on the issue.

The nature of Mr Gormley’s intervention was not detailed at the tribunal. When asked why he had ignored his employers’ letters, Dr O’Nuallain said he has not been willing to be dragged into an “illegal and invalid” industrial relations process.