Sunday 17 February 2019

Gormley contacted DCU over row with lecturer

Grainne Cunningham

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley intervened in a row between a college lecturer and his university boss which remains unresolved seven years later.

The involvement of the then Dail Deputy in the dispute between Dr Sean O'Nuallain and Dublin City University (DCU) president Ferdinand Von Prondzynski in May 2002 was outlined at a hearing of an Employment Appeals Tribunal yesterday.

DCU is appealing a 2003 rights commissioner ruling that Dr O'Nuallain should be reinstated to a permanent position with no financial loss, maintaining that it did not terminate his employment and that he had "repudiated" his contract. Dr O'Nuallain insists he did not resign and was constructively dismissed.

Yesterday, the tribunal heard that in May 2002, Mr Gormley forwarded a fax relating to the dispute to Siptu education branch secretary Carmel Hogan, who was handling the case, and that he had telephoned Professor Von Prondzynski about the matter some months previously.

Tom Mallon, for DCU, read correspondence from Prof Von Prondzynski to Dr O'Nuallain in which the DCU president stated: "While I generally have the greatest respect for John Gormley, I could not possibly discuss with him issues relating to you and your work."

Prof Von Prondzynski added that he had raised this with Mr Gormley "when he rang me some months ago".

Dr O'Nuallain told the tribunal he had sought the involvement of Mr Gormley "as a person capable of bringing it up in a public forum".

During questioning by Dr O'Nuallain's counsel, Padraig Lyons, Ms Hogan said she understood "Sean wanted an outside eye cast on the process" in case it deteriorated further.

She said Dr O'Nuallain was in a "state of acute emotional distress about the situation".

A spokesman for Mr Gormley said he could not comment while the evidence was before the tribunal.

Earlier, the tribunal heard how a letter dismissing Dr O'Nuallain from his position at the university was pushed through the letterbox of his home at 10.30pm on May 17, 2002. Dr O'Nuallain told the tribunal it was "dropped into our house by somebody more or less hiding in the bushes", and said it was delivered in this way in order to "intimidate us to the maximum extent".

Unique

Ms Hogan said that in her three years of handling industrial relations matters between universities and their staff, the manner in which this case was handled was "unique".

She said she was not aware of any reason why the president of the college had become involved and described the manner in which Dr O'Nuallain was dismissed as "shocking".

Mr Mallon drew the tribunal's attention to a series of letters from the college to Dr O'Nuallain in which his employers demanded that he explain his absences from the college, his failure to properly carry out his duties and also his posting of "libellous" material on the Green Party website.

Mr Mallon referred to a blog written by Dr O'Nuallain in which he accused a number of his colleagues at DCU of being "traitors", "criminals" and "idiots". Dr O'Nuallain said he would withdraw some of those allegations within the forum of the tribunal.

The hearing continues today.

Irish Independent

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