Temple Bar trust suspends chief executive

Dermot McLaughlin suspended on full pay pending investigation

Dermot McLaughlin, chief executive of Temple Bar Cultural Trust, has been suspended on full pay pending an investigation by its board of his role in offering three senior staff members redundancy packages last week, each worth €100,000 or more.

With the trust in the process of being wound up following a Dublin City Council audit report highlighting serious corporate governance failures, the packages were offered by Mr McLaughlin to the three senior staff without the board's knowledge or approval.

As soon as trust chairman Dáithi O’Ceallaigh found out about it, he summoned a board meeting, at which it was decided to suspend Mr McLaughlin “with pay and without prejudice pending an investigation”, according to the city council’s press office.

Left headquarters
Mr McLaughlin, who had only resumed his post last Tuesday after ending his short-lived secondment to Derry UK City of Culture, was informed of the board's decision yesterday morning and then left the trust's headquarters on East Essex Street.


He could not be reached later to comment on the matter.

Council arts officer Ray Yeates, who had been acting chief executive during the five months Mr McLaughlin was in Derry, again took charge of the organisation, which manages a property portfolio worth €9.3 million and promotes Temple Bar as a cultural quarter.

It is understood that the redundancy packages were offered to the trust’s head of strategy, Gráinne Millar, as well as communications manager Roisín McCarthy and audience development manager Eimear Chaomhánach.

However, new financial controls put in place since the council’s audit meant that the money could not be paid out on Mr McLaughlin’s authority alone and, following the board meeting, all three were told by Mr Yeates that they should return to their posts.

Internal audit
Four senior council officials, including head of finance Cathy Quinn, were recently appointed to the board in a move that was seen as an attempt by the council to ensure a smooth winding up of the trust, as recommended by a Latitude consultancy report in 2011. The council's internal audit unit is carrying out a forensic investigation of company credit card expenditure in 2011, while former Ibec director Turlough O'Sullivan is reviewing the findings of the earlier audit report, at the board's request, with a view to further action.

Former trust director Mannix Flynn, who is an Independent member of the city council, has tabled a motion calling for an audit of the €2.3 million "rainscreen" for Meeting House Square, on the basis that it was not examined by the earlier audit or by its funder, Fáilte Ireland.

Meanwhile, subsidised arts organisations in Temple Bar are anxious about their future when the trust’s functions are taken over by Dublin City Council. They want to be formally consulted about the process and future plans.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor