Saturday 20 January 2018

Melanie refuses to back down in UNICEF job row

Melanie Verwoerd: backers include actor Liam Neeson. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Melanie Verwoerd: backers include actor Liam Neeson. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Louise Hogan

FORMER executive director of UNICEF Melanie Verwoerd last night indicated she will reluctantly push ahead with her plan to take her former employer to the Employment Appeals Tribunal -- despite calls from the charity for an "amicable resolution" to their bitter row.

Ms Verwoerd received the backing of three top Hollywood supporters of the charity -- including Irish actor Liam Neeson as well as Roger Moore and Vanessa Redgrave -- as she claimed her dismissal was due to her relationship with the late RTE star Gerry Ryan.

The charity claims the contract was ended as she refused to accept the board's view that the connection with the broadcaster was "negative" for the success of its mission. Last night, the charity said a friendly solution to the dispute would best serve the children "who so desperately need our help" as two million children are at risk of starvation in Somalia and east Africa.

This would appear to mirror what Ms Verwoerd has been calling for. However, she is standing by her previous statement that she will reluctantly take her case before a tribunal.

In a statement, the charity said it acknowledged the decision of the board acting "within its authority under Irish law" and also the many contributions Ms Verwoerd made to the charity.

However, it stressed "the time has come to look beyond this dispute and focus on these children".

Last night, Ms Verwoerd also urged people to continue to donate to UNICEF. She also highlighted her previous statement, saying "children should not be affected" by the dispute.


"I will reluctantly take my case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. This may take some time but I trust and hope the people of Ireland, who have always been incredibly generous, will support the children in the Horn of Africa who need our help now," she said after losing the job a fortnight ago.

The charity last night stated the Irish committee and the public has been and "will continue to be among our strongest supporters".

"An amicable resolution of this dispute would best honour these contributions and, most important, best serve the children who so desperately need our help," it stated.

A spokeswoman from UN aid agency's European headquarters said she had no information on whether the donations from the Irish public had been affected by the dispute.

UNICEF works with hundreds of thousands of children at nutrition centres and in water projects in some of the hardest hit areas of Somalia. It estimates more than half a million children in the region already suffer severe malnutrition and are at immediate risk of death.

Irish Independent

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