Monday 22 January 2018

Former McInerney boss says he was bullied out of €446,000 post

Barry O'Connor, former chief executive of McInerney Properties
Barry O'Connor, former chief executive of McInerney Properties

Kevin Keane and Louise Hogan

A FORMER managing director of one of the country's biggest construction companies, McInerney Holdings plc, has claimed his fellow board members harassed and bullied him out of his job.

Barry O'Connor – who confirmed he was still a director of the firm – claims he was the victim of a "corporate ambush" because he had a different vision of how the company should react to the housing crash.

He has taken an action for unfair dismissal against Dublin-based McInerney, which at its height built more than 3,000 houses in Ireland and the UK each year, but is in the process of liquidation.

If successful, Mr O'Connor could be awarded up to two years' salary, a figure understood to exceed €1m.

Mr O'Connor yesterday told an Employment Appeals Tribunal that in the period leading up to his departure from McInerney in April 2010 there was "a lot of friction" between him and other board members.

"The board made the decision that they wanted to force the banks to take write-downs and the fundamental reason the board forced me out was that I wanted to continue to refinance the business," he said.

Mr O'Connor told the tribunal that the others had wanted to restructure and thought he would not support that as a large shareholder.

TRUST

Minutes from a McInerney board meeting in April 2010 said there had been a breakdown of trust between Mr O'Connor and his fellow executive directors.

At that meeting the board voted eight-to-one that Mr O'Connor would take over the company's Spanish business, a vote he described as a "corporate ambush".

He said the Spanish business built only 40 houses a year compared with the thousands built annually by McInerney's Irish division.

He added that he eventually stood aside from the company because he was forced to do so.

McInerney Holdings' barrister Tom Mallon said the company was in the process of being wound-up and had no assets with which it could pay Mr O'Connor redundancy.

He said Mr O'Connor had resigned from his post but was now seeking special treatment over the more than 1,000 employees who lost their jobs.

He added that it was also McInerney's position that it never employed Mr O'Connor, who instead was employed by a subsidiary, Gaskan. Mr O'Connor denied this.

The tribunal heard Mr O'Connor was on a salary of €446,930, with €24,000 of benefits and €56,000 of a pension contribution.

He acknowledged the company was not trading, but said he still believes it has "assets".

"You are sitting here, so I am presuming it has cash to pay you," he said to Mr Mallon.

The tribunal will resume in December.

Irish Independent

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