Sacked accountant was ‘collateral damage’ in coursing club row

Solicitor said the expenses regime for members was ‘elastic’ at the time

An accountant sacked by the Irish Coursing Club was “collateral damage” and “the jam in the sandwich” in a row between the club’s current president and other executive members, an employment appeals tribunal has heard.

The comments were made in closing submissions yesterday in an unfair dismissal case taken by Edmund O’Brien (50), Newmarket, Co Cork.

The accountant was dismissed in January 2010, a decision upheld on appeal, for alleged falsification of accounts and misappropriation of funds.

The tribunal heard claims on Tuesday that Mr O'Brien had "a deal" with his former boss, the late Jerry Desmond, to claim €3,800 a year in "fictitious" mileage expenses, and that he was told by Mr Desmond to make "adjustments" to club accounts to improve the financial showing of the club-owned Sporting Press newspaper, which was competing with a new Greyhound Weekly at the time.


In his closing submission, David Gaffney, solicitor for the ICC, said Mr O'Brien had opportunities three times at his employer's office to explain the mileage claims, but had "offered different and varying excuses at each and every turn".

Mr O’Brien “was never supposed to get it”, Mr Gaffney said in relation to the €3,800 in mileage.

The appeals committee within the club, which upheld the original decision to dismiss Mr O’Brien, did not accept his evidence at the time that he falsified club accounts “on the direction of . . . or in consultation with” Mr Desmond.

Frank Nyhan, solicitor for Mr O'Brien, said the expenses regime for members was "elastic" at the time. "The problem here is that Mr O'Brien was collateral damage." There was clearly an issue between current ICC president Brian Divilly and other members of the executive "and it hasn't gone away".

“Unfortunately for Mr O’Brien, he became the jam in the sandwich. Someone on the executive made a complaint to the gardaí and Mr O’Brien ended up bring arrested and then suspended and dismissed.”

The tribunal will rule on Mr O’Brien’s claim at a later date.