Woman claims unfair dismissal by institute


A WOMAN who claims she was effectively the deputy chief executive of the Institute of International and European Affairs, as well as its publications director and director of communications, has taken a case against the organisation for unfair dismissal.

Margaret Aherne has told the Employment Appeals Tribunal that she reported in her range of roles directly to the institute’s chairman, Brendan Halligan.

But she said a director general of the institute, Jill Donoghue, had sought to discipline her while making unfair allegations about the running of a Fás course and other issues.

Opening the case before the tribunal yesterday, Claire Bruton, for Ms Aherne, said her client had a range of duties that included supervising the Fás course run by the institute, but was not confined to the Fás supervision.

She said Ms Aherne was shocked when she was dismissed without proper notice and without a P45, following a period of sick leave in 2010.

Ms Bruton said Ms Aherne’s duties also included a role as the institute’s director of publications, for which she was paid an additional €15,000 a year. Ms Aherne was also a director of communications. She had been granted study leave personally by Mr Halligan in 2009 and had combined this with annual leave, while a subsequent period of sick leave was all medically certified.

However, she said Ms Aherne had been called to a meeting in 2009 by Ms Donoghue, who was a former head of research and who had taken over the role of director general of the institute on the departure of former Fine Gael politician Alan Dukes.

Ms Bruton said it would be Ms Aherne’s case that Ms Donoghue treated her in an unfair manner, making a number of allegations in relation to time-keeping, unauthorised leave and the running of the Fás course.

However, barrister Anthony Kerr, for the institute, told the tribunal that the Fás community employment scheme was so badly run it was a cause of concern to both the institute and Fás.

He said Ms Aherne utilised excessive sick leave and the institute had been unable to trace a participant who had “never been seen”. He said another scheme participant appeared to be acting as a deputy supervisor, receiving telephone instructions from Ms Aherne.

Mr Kerr said that the institute was a registered charity operating as “a think tank on policy issues” relating mainly to the EU and Ireland’s membership of the union.

Most of the institute workers, including chairman Mr Halligan and other board members, were voluntary workers, as the organisation was funded by voluntary donations, he said.

The tribunal set aside October 18th and 19th to hear the full evidence in the case.