Friday 21 November 2014

Christ Church choir conductor bullied by dean, tribunal hears

Kevin Keane

Published 15/11/2012 | 05:00

A WOMAN once described as "the greatest conductor of her generation" alleges she was the victim of anti-English bullying at the hands of the dean of Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral.

Judy Martin (45) told an Employment Appeals Tribunal that on one occasion the Very Reverend Dermot Dunne shouted at her in "an irrational outburst".

She said she was frightened and found the dean "physically intimidating".

She alleges she was subject to persistent bullying, aggression and threatening behaviour in the course of her job as director of music in the cathedral.

Ms Martin also said that depression and anxiety caused by the bullying led her to make plans to take her own life.

She has brought a case of constructive dismissal against the cathedral and Rev Dunne, the dean of the Church of Ireland diocese of Dublin and Glendalough.

Rev Dunne denies the allegations.

Ms Martin took up employment with the cathedral in 2003 following a successful musical career in the UK.

By 2010, her salary was €34,000 and included rent-free accommodation in a "huge Georgian building" on St Werburgh Street, opposite the cathedral and worth in the region of €3m.

Rev Dunne became dean of the cathedral in May 2008.

Ms Martin said in December 2009, Rev Dunne "got quite aggressive and said we (the choir) should change what we were doing".

At a meeting the following day, "the aggression I had seen came out in an almost irrational outburst from the dean, where he was almost shouting at me".

Frightening

"He stood up and leaned over towards me. I found it quite frightening and I couldn't tell what he was saying to me. All I could take was that the choir was too prominent and was overshadowing events."

In early 2010, Ms Martin began to suffer from back pain, which became worse and caused her to take sick leave.

Around the same time, she was told that 'urgent and drastic' cuts would have to be made to Christ Church's budget.

On May 13, 2010, she and her assistant director Tristan Russcher met with Rev Dunne, who outlined a number of options regarding how services and the choir could be rearranged.

Ms Martin told the tribunal that Rev Dunne told her that she should outline these options to the choir. The inquiry heard that this was confirmed by minutes taken by Mr Russcher.

Ms Martin said she met the choir that evening and outlined the options, as discussed. Following this, she was accused of gross misconduct for revealing confidential information.

Due to deterioration in her back pain and stress, Ms Martin was unable to work for much of 2010.

In January 2011, she wrote a letter to the board of Christ Church, telling it that as her job had been systematically dismantled and because she had been undermined, she considered herself to have been constructively dismissed.

She returned to the UK, where she is receiving continuing medical treatment.

A passage from a report by consultant psychologist Dr Anne Leader said in her opinion Ms Martin would never recover her career or confidence and was considering an alternative career as a chef.

The case is due to hear from witnesses for both sides today.

Irish Independent

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