Saturday 23 September 2017

GOAL chief John O'Shea in court battle to control charity

Luke Byrne, Tim Healy and Edel O'Connell

JOHN O'SHEA has set up a dramatic legal showdown with those he appointed to help run the charity he founded, as he battles to remain in control of GOAL.

He is now locked in a bitter battle with the board to save his €100,000-a-year job at the head of the overseas aid body.

The acrimony that has dogged the organisation for months was laid bare at the High Court yesterday, as Mr O'Shea claimed there was a "concerted effort" to remove him from his position.

He was forced to deny that there was a culture of "institutionalised bullying" at the charity he set up 35 years ago, after a number of complaints were made against him by GOAL managers.

Fraught

The board was last night holding a tense meeting, while lawyers for both sides will now prepare for a fraught showdown in the court on Friday.

Earlier yesterday, Mr O'Shea (68) secured a temporary court order preventing him from being suspended or removed from his role as chief executive.

The High Court heard that there was a "personality clash" between Mr O'Shea and Pat O'Mahony -- who only took up his position as chairman of the board of GOAL last December.

Mr O'Mahony put a motion to the board at a meeting last week to suspend Mr O'Shea, the chief executive, but the motion was defeated by six votes to five.

The move to suspend Mr O'Shea appears to have followed complaints about his management and conduct. There was a letter of complaint by some managers in the aid agency in relation to Mr O'Shea and allegations were also made of a culture of "institutionalised bullying", his counsel Paul McGarry said.

The complaints were put to Mr O'Shea last week and lead to a disciplinary inquiry which Mr O'Shea argues was not properly established.

No written detailed allegations had been put to Mr O'Shea and two particular complaints were false, untrue and not fresh but "concocted" by senior staff, Mr McGarry said.

The High Court heard that Mr O'Shea was told not to attend the board meeting when the vote was taken on whether to suspend him.

He feared there would be another effort to suspend him at a meeting that was scheduled for last night.

He instead decided on Monday to go to the High Court in an effort to remain in control of the charity.

A spokesman for the GOAL board said that it was aware of the injunction taken by Mr O'Shea and that the details have been passed to the organisation's lawyers.

"As this is a matter for the courts there will be no further comment," he said.

'Concocted'

He declined to elaborate on the circumstances leading up to the board meeting that tried to oust the charity's founder.

The High Court had heard that Mr O'Shea rejected the complaints made against him as "false and concocted".

Mr McGarry said no preliminary warning letter about the injunction application was sent to GOAL because Mr O'Shea only contacted lawyers on Monday after he had spoken with some board members.

They told him they could not provide assurances to him.

Mr O'Shea just wanted "some breathing space" in circumstances where he feared the board meeting would repeat the effort to suspend his employment, Mr McGarry said.

He added that Mr O'Shea had been involved with GOAL for the last 35 years, had no recollection of signing a formal contract of employment and was in open-ended employment.

Mr O'Mahony was appointed chairman early this year and Mr O'Shea was told he would have a less involved role in the organisation.

Mr O'Shea was seeking a declaration, in the absence of any findings of gross misconduct against him, that his employment should not be unreasonably terminated.

Mr O'Shea also alleged an agenda is being pursued against him.

Mr O'Shea had initiated the court action because he felt huge distress, stress and anxiety and this was all occurring with no regard to fair procedures, Mr McGarry added.

The charity's founder did not attend the High Court yesterday.

In the past year GOAL has been rocked by a spate of resignations. All but one board member resigned last September.

Mr O'Shea then set out to rebuild the organisation bringing a host of new names on to the board.

Tim Dalton, entrepreneur Gregory Curry, Hugh O'Flaherty, PR executive Tom Reddy and Mr O'Mahony were appointed in the following months.

They joined directors appointed earlier in the year including journalists Vincent Hogan and PJ Cunningham.

Accountants Cliona Hartigan and James Henry Casey were also appointed.

However, the new chairman Ken Fogarty, a senior barrister, resigned in December -- after just three months in the position. He was replaced by Mr O'Mahony.

Fran Rooney also stood down in December, citing difficulties with corporate governance.

Irish Independent

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