Council employee in 'human fireball' stand-off gets €30k
A tribunal has ruled that a council foreman who allegedly threatened to turn himself into a human fireball in a one-man protest was unfairly dismissed.
In its ruling, the Employment Appeals Tribunal ordered Clare County Council to pay €30,000 to Joseph Floyd Snr, of Lower Main Street, Tulla.
Mr Floyd told the tribunal that he wanted his job back as he has been unable to find work since being dismissed in September 2011, but reinstatement was ruled out.
In May 2010, SIPTU shop steward Mr Floyd locked himself into a van at a council roadworks programme in the east Clare village of Feakle with a lighter and petrol in protest at the council hiring outside contractors and safety concerns he had over that practice.
According to the tribunal report, he threatened to set himself and plant machinery on fire. At the hearing, Mr Floyd denied making those threats.
His protest resulted in a five-hour stand-off that involved armed gardai, the fire service and the ambulance service.
SIPTU organiser Tony Kenny told the four-day tribunal in Ennis that "the Abbeylara scenario was on everyone's minds" when trying to defuse the stand-off.
In 2000, John Carthy was shot dead by armed gardai in controversial circumstances after a 25-hour siege at Abbeylara, Co Longford.
Of the Feakle stand-off, Mr Kenny told the hearing: "It was pretty volatile. Joseph Floyd was exceptionally agitated. The situation was dangerous."
Mr Floyd told the tribunal that emergency response officers had their Uzi machine guns trained on him. He said "this was a typical bullying exercise".
Council official Leonard Cleary said "there was a very serious risk to loss of life" at the stand-off.
Mr Kenny negotiated with the council to provide a letter to Mr Floyd that he remained a council worker in spite of the stand-off, and Mr Floyd ended his protest as a result. Mr Cleary said the letter was given under duress.
A council investigation found Mr Floyd was guilty of gross misconduct and he was fired in September 2011. However, the tribunal found he was sacked because he went on Clare FM to speak of the incident.
The tribunal found: "There was a lack of evidence to substantiate the charge of bringing the name of the council into disrepute. The tribunal was not satisfied that this charge was sufficiently proven."
The panel unanimously deemed it just to award Mr Floyd €30,000.