Women's refuge manager sues HSE over bullying claim


A FORMER assistant manager at a Dublin refuge for victims of domestic violence has sued the Health Service Executive (HSE) and claimed she was subjected to a campaign of bullying, intimidation and isolation in her workplace.

Brenda Ryan (52), a mother of three of Fernleigh Drive, Carpenterstown, Castleknock, Co Dublin, claims her difficulties began after she wrote an unfavourable report in 1996 concerning a fellow worker who was a close friend of Kathy Moore, her senior manager.

The High Court heard that when that worker applied for a permanent position with the HSE, Ms Ryan claimed she received persistent communication from Ms Moore demanding the report be retracted in full because it was frustrating the woman’s attempt to be made permanent.

From that moment on, Ms Ryan was verbally abused by Kathy Moore on numerous occasions, her counsel Richard Kean SC said. As a result, Ms Ryan began to suffer very significant psychological and emotional problems.

Mr Kean said Ms Ryan was employed as an assistant manager at the refuge at Rathmines, Dublin, for victims of domestic violence for about 20 years. From 1997 onwards, she was subjected to an “extraordinary campaign of bullying, intimidation and isolation”, counsel said. Her difficulties began when she wrote the 1996 report.

After that, his client was verbally, severely and unfairly criticised on an “almost daily basis” by Ms Moore and seven witnesses would give overwhelming evidence to that effect, counsel said. There would be “a litany of extraordinary behaviour”, inappropriate harassment, intimidation and abuse at the hands of Ms Moore towards Ms Ryan.

Mr Kean said his client was subjected to “unbelievable vulgar insults” and lies and malicious rumours about her were also directed to staff and victims in the refuge centre.

Ms Ryan found it necessary to take a career break from July 2000 to July 2002 because of her emotional and psychological problems, counsel said. When she returned, the problems worsened.

She went on sick leave on April 24th, 2005 and was put on half pay in January 2006 when her employment was terminated, counsel said. She was willing to return to work but only if it was away from where Ms Moore worked. Counsel said his client suffered from a depressive illness as a result of the bullying received.

Aongus Ó Brolchain SC, for the HSE, said it was denied there was any such bullying, abuse or threatening language.

Counsel said the refuge was for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. One of the main rules was that the doors be kept locked at all times because sometimes husbands appeared and caused problems but, on one occasion, Ms Ryan had stated she had walked out and the door had shut behind her while she was working outside.

This was a very serious breach of security which required the HSE to seek a written explanation from Ms Ryan as to what happened, counsel said. For a period of time, Ms Ryan was locked out and had to wake up a resident who in turn had to contact a colleague then on a two-hour break.

He also said, when Ms Ryan had sought her two-year career break, she had written on the relevant form it was for “domestic reasons” and had not said it was related to bullying.

Ms Ryan was a night assistant manager while Ms Moore worked days and there was very little contact between the two women, counsel also said.

The hearing continues.