Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Vet removed from job after wearing Donald Trump mask to work at Tipperary meat plant

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Tim Healy

A vet in meat plant was removed from inspection duties by the Department of Agriculture after he wore a Donald Trump mask to work "as a joke" the day after the US president's election, the High Court heard.

Dr Declan Gill, Newgarden, Castleconnell, Co Limerick, was given leave by the court to challenge the Department's February 20 decision removing him from all temporary veterinary panels which oversee the slaughter of animals at meat plants.

Mairéad McKenna BL, for Dr Gill, said the decision arose out of an incident on November 9 last when her client went to work at the Rosderra Irish Meats plant in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where he been a temporary inspector since 1998.  

Ms McKenna said he was wearing a Donald Trump mask and when he met the plant's human resources director, Tony Delaney, he gave him the Donald "thump" in a joking manner.   

Mr Delaney alleges Dr Gill approached him with a mask on and threatened him with a closed fist with the words "you're dead" which he found intimidating. 

Arising out of this, the meat plant sought to have Dr Gill removed from the inspection panel and following consideration of the incident, a decision group recommended his removal with immediate effect last February.

Ms McKenna said he had not been afforded fair procedures and while not an employee of the plant, her side argue he is entitled to employment rights afforded to all workers.  His main income comes from being a veterinary inspector, she said.

In a direct response to Mr Delaney's complaint, Dr Gill's lawyers denied he was guilty of any wrongdoing.  He wore the Trump mask while he walked along the production line where it was then removed.  It was done as a joke for the purpose of entertaining his colleagues at the plant, the solicitors said in a letter last February.

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He had also worn a Barak Obama mask in the plant eight years earlier and no issue was taken with it, it was also stated.  Mr Delaney's safety, or that of other staff was no at risk, his solicitors said.

In an affidavit, Dr Gill says in 2010 he was involved in a workplace accident at the plant which left him seriously injured.  He later issued personal injury proceedings against the plant.

When he returned to work in 2013, Mr Delaney told him he believed he was lying and he should withdraw his personal injuries case, he says.  He believes Mr Delaney and Rosderra Meats hold prejudicial attitudes and opinions and clearly did not wish him to remain rostered as an inspector at Rosderra Meats.

He says in 2015, Mr Delaney alleged Dr Gill had failed to comply with the plant's hygiene policy and also said a grievance had been lodged against him (Gill) by another member of staff.   He denies the allegations.

An inquiry was begun into those complaints. 

He was injured in an accident not related to Rosderra Meats on February 22, 2016, and was on extended leave until October.  In the meantime, during August 2016, he says a number of other allegations were made, including that he had intimidated other members of staff.  He denied those claims.

In the run up to the "Trump incident", he was also issued with three notifications by Department supervising vets in relation to alleged failures to visually inspect animal carcasses.

He believes Mr Delaney has been committed to securing his removal from Rosderra Meats.  He says an oral hearing into the charges against him, which was refused, is absolutely essential to vindicate his right to fair procedure.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted leave on an ex-parte (one side only represented) basis to bring judicial review proceedings.  He also granted an injunction preventing the Department removing him from his post. The matter comes back to court in May.

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