Wednesday 20 September 2017

Verwoerd settles case over UNICEF dismissal

Melanie Verwoerd, former partner of Gerry Ryan
Melanie Verwoerd, former partner of Gerry Ryan
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

CHARITY boss Melanie Verwoerd has settled her unfair dismissal case against her former employer, UNICEF Ireland, for an undisclosed sum.

The children's charity said it and its former executive director had agreed that neither will make any comment to the media in relation to the terms.

However, the charity previously offered Ms Verwoerd a €200,000 settlement when she left the organisation in July 2011 – a settlement she turned down.

Pleased

Ms Verwoerd said she was forced out of the €100,000-a-year job because of her relationship with late RTE broadcaster Gerry Ryan. The charity denied this.

She said she was taking an unfair dismissal case "reluct-antly". That case was due to begin earlier this month but was put back to later in the year as the former ambassador had a prior commitment in her native South Africa on that date.

Announcing the settlement, UNICEF Ireland said "all outstanding contractual matters have been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties".

Commenting on the deal, Ms Verwoerd's successor as executive director, former junior minister Peter Power, said he was pleased they had been able to come to a resolution and wished her well for the future.

"During her tenure as executive director of UNICEF Ireland she made a major contribution to the welfare of millions of children worldwide," he said. "I wish to acknowledge that her departure was in no way a reflection on her performance."

The charity had offered Ms Verwoerd €200,000, the equivalent of two years' salary and the maximum that can be ordered by a tribunal, but if a tribunal had found in her favour, it could have ordered her reinstatement.

Ms Verwoerd's departure from the charity, just over 15 months after Mr Ryan's death, caused controversy. She was credited with delivering a huge increase in the charity's donations.

Actors Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave and Roger Moore – who Ms Verwoerd had encouraged to be goodwill ambassadors – withdrew their support for the organisation in the wake of her dismissal.

Irish Independent

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