Complaint was thrown out after hearing was repeatedly disrupted
A solicitor whose unfair dismissal claim was thrown out following a fractious hearing has initiated legal proceedings against the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
An adjudicating officer dismissed Ammi Burke’s claim against leading law firm Arthur Cox last April following “sustained and deliberate obstruction and disruptions” by the solicitor’s mother, Martina Burke.
The case attracted considerable attention at the time due to repeated objections and interjections made during the hearing.
It later emerged adjudicating officer Kevin Baneham considered calling gardaí to remove Martina Burke before ultimately deciding to dismiss her daughter’s case.
Ammi Burke has now taken High Court judicial review proceedings, listing “an adjudicating officer” and the WRC as defendants. The legal challenge was initiated on Tuesday, when Ms Burke, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, filed an originating statement and an affidavit with the court.
Details of the challenge have yet to be aired but it is thought to relate to the WRC’s handling of her case, during which she clashed with Mr Baneham several times.
Ms Burke did not respond to requests for comment.
Before the WRC hearing proper, Ms Burke made an application requesting that Mr Baneham recuse himself due to what she alleged was a “close and long-standing relationship” with Peter Ward SC, counsel for Arthur Cox, and Donal Spring, the principal solicitor at Daniel Spring & Co, which was also representing Arthur Cox.
Mr Spring is the brother of former Labour leader and tánaiste Dick Spring.
She suggested Mr Baneham, Mr Ward and Donal Spring shared values as members of the Labour Party
But Mr Baneham rejected the application, saying he had no political affiliation and had resigned his party membership when he became a civil servant in 2012.
The adjudicating officer also refused an application from Ms Burke requesting he summon Arthur Cox partner Kevin Lynch and HR officer Ruth D’Alton to give evidence.
Mr Baneham dismissed the case when repeated interjections by Martina Burke prevented a defence witness, Arthur Cox’s managing partner Geoff Moore, from being sworn in.
It is the second time Ms Burke has sued the WRC over its handling of her case. A previous hearing was aborted by another adjudicating officer, Marie Flynn, in May last year following a decision by the Supreme Court that the absence of a capacity for adjudication officers to require evidence on oath was inconsistent with the Constitution.
Ms Burke unsuccessfully challenged this decision, arguing her case should have been paused rather than having to be started all over again once legislation to allow evidence under oath was in place.
Ms Burke alleged she was unfairly dismissed in November 2019 over her criticism of a partner at the firm after she was left working until 2am while colleagues were out socialising. She had been working as a junior associate at the firm’s banking and finance division.
Arthur Cox denied she was unfairly dismissed, arguing there was a breakdown in her relationship with three senior partners. The WRC was told incidents included Ms Burke “having a go” at one partner, Gráinne Hennessy.
It also heard that Ms Burke criticised another partner, Kevin Lynch, when he congratulated her for completing a deal.
She is alleged to have told him she “wouldn’t have had to work so late on that transaction if his team had been doing their work”.
Ms Burke told the High Court last year she had been unable to find legal employment and the gap in her career was “extremely damaging”.