Wednesday 21 February 2018

'Embarrassed' parachute instructor wants suspension lifted

Paul McMahon leaving court
Paul McMahon leaving court

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE chief instructor with the Irish Parachute Club has brought a High Court challenge against the Irish Aviation Authority's (IAA) decision to suspend him from his post.

Paul McMahon's action arises out of his suspension which he was informed about following a meeting with two officials from the IAA last February on foot of allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr McMahon, who denies any wrongdoing, says the IAA have acted unreasonably by suspending him, and that he has been denied fair procedures.

The IAA's actions have embarrassed him and effected his standing with members of the Irish Parachute Club.

He also claims that the IAA has no legal authority to suspend him.

In his action against the Authority Mr McMahon from Esker, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Co Offaly, wants the Court to quash the IAA's decision to suspend him. He is also seeking declarations including that the IAA aced in breach of fair procedures in the manner it dealt with him and that it wrongfully interfered with the relation between Mr McMahon and the club.

The Irish Parachute Club are a notice part to the action.

At the High Court Mr McMahon's barrister Ken Fogarty SC said his client attended with the IAA officials for what he thought was was "an informal discussion" and to update operations manual.

Prior to that meeting in Dublin neither Mr McMahon nor the club were informed about any allegations of wrongdoing that might be made about him.

At the meeting, where Mr McMahon had no legal representation, he was asked about an incident where a parachutist with the club sustained an ankle injury. The official who asked the questions, Mr Lou Fine, seemed happy with Mr McMahon's responses, counsel said.

After that matter was dealt with, the officials raised an incident where an airplane allegedly flew low over a hanger. Mr McMahon, who was not present on that flight had no knowledge of the incident.

However the officials were not happy with his response.

Mr McMahon's suitability to act as instructor was questioned, and he was informed that he was being suspended. Mr McMahon, counsel said was also informed at the meeting by the officials that the decision to suspend him had been take by the IAA the previous day.

In addition, counsel said, the second IAA official who attended the meeting was John Murray, who in his capacity as Chairman of the National Microlite Association of Ireland had previously been subject to a complaint to the Standards in Public office Commission by Mr McMahon.

Counsel said that the IAA has no legal authority to suspend his client, and it has failed to set out the factual grounds and relevant sections of air law which it contends Mr McMahon has breached.

Counsel said that his client was appointed to his role as chief instructor with the club, located at Clonbullogue Co Offaly, in August 2010. Since the IAA decision he has been without pay, and somebody else has been engaged to carry out his duties, counsel added.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis, by the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns. The judge made the mater returnable to date later this year.

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