Tuesday 28 February 2017

'Ruthless' PR faces colleague's bullying claims

As she hits the headlines again, Edel Kennedy profiles the woman who inspired Twink's phone rant

Ruth Hickey,
the woman at the
centre of the
bullying
allegations. Photo: Courtpix
Ruth Hickey, the woman at the centre of the bullying allegations. Photo: Courtpix

RUTH by name and ruthless by reputation, according to her employer.

As a senior consultant with the Communications Clinic, Ruth Hickey (37) knows all about public relations and the power of the media. And this week she found herself at the centre of her own media storm after she was accused of bullying by a former colleague.

The case at the Employment Appeals Tribunal is being contested by her the Communications Clinic -- run by PR guru Terry Prone and her son Anton Savage -- and she has been called to give evidence about the allegations when the hearing resumes in October.

But it wasn't the first time Ms Hickey had hit the headlines. In 2004 it emerged that she was having an affair with oboe musician David Agnew. He is 20 years her senior and was married to Twink -- real name Adele King -- with whom he had two daughters.

The couple had met in professional circles, as Ms Hickey is a clarinet player. She later worked as a music teacher at the Artane Music School.

Further details of their affair emerged in a failed court action by Ms Hickey against the 'Sunday World' newspaper after it published a photograph of her, Mr Agnew, and their son, leaving the births registration office in 2006.

Relationship

It detailed how the relationship between the couple "had commenced sometime prior to Mr Agnew's departure from the family home he shared with Ms King in 2004".

In October 2004, he moved from the marital home in Knocklyon, Dublin, and into Ms Hickey's home in Archer's Wood, Castaheany, Dublin 15. In February 2006 she gave birth to their son, Jesse Isaac.

The birth resulted in the infamous 'Zip up your mickey' phone message which Twink left for her former husband and which then emerged on the internet.

Ms Hickey and Mr Agnew have since split -- and some time later she took the action against the 'Sunday World' for defamation and breach of privacy.

She told the High Court last year that the articles about her family portrayed her as a "whore" and her son as a bastard. She said although the word "whore" was reported to have been used by Twink, she believed the paper was portraying her as a prostitute.

The use of a headline 'Twink's ex shows off love child' meant her child was a bastard, she said.

However, the court ruled that the photographs had been taken in a public place and that the voicemail message in which Twink used the offensive words about Ms Hickey and her child had already been posted on the internet and were in the public domain.

"The general tone of the message may be deduced from one of its milder passages in which Ms King has described Mr Agnew as a 'fat, bald, middle-aged dickhead'," the decision of the court stated.

Ms Hickey studied music at DIT before going to Trinity where she studied music performance in the early 1990s.

She worked as a freelance musician for over a decade before concentrating exclusively on PR.

She began working in Carr Communications in 2004. After senior managers left to set up the Communications Clinic, Ms Hickey moved to the new company and has been working there since 2008.

The company's website lists her work on accounts including KPMG, InterTradeIreland and the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

According to her biography she was christened "Ruthless" by RSA chairman Gay Byrne for her work.

"He meant it in a positive way," it says.

But last night, Mr Byrne said he didn't recall giving her any nickname.

"I don't think I know her well enough to nickname her anything," he said.

Earlier this week, an Employment Appeals Tribunal opened in Dublin.

Karagh Fox (26), from Rathfarnham in Dublin, is claiming that she was constructively dismissed from the Communications Clinic, and has alleged she was bullied by Ms Hickey.

Badger

Ms Fox had begun working there in March 2008, the same month as Ms Hickey, but didn't return to work after November 25, 2009.

"I'd go in every morning terrified of what was going to happen, maybe Ruth would explode, or Anton (Savage) would badger me about specific complaints (about Ruth) which I couldn't give him," she said.

She said she made a complaint to Mr Savage, managing director of the Communications Clinic.

He disputed Ms Fox's claims that he had made any findings into her allegations of bullying and said no conclusion had been reached in his investigation before her resignation.

She said she resigned in November, adding there was "no way I could go back".

The hearing was put back until October, when Ms Hickey will be called to give evidence.

Employment tribunals can be settled at any time between the parties. This stops it from going to a full public hearing.

Ms Hickey now lives in Kells, Co Meath, and is expecting a child with her new partner.

Irish Independent

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