| 9.6°C Dublin

Sacked lorry driver prayed to Gerry Ryan for job back

A DRIVER sacked after pulling his lorry into a motorway hard shoulder to take a call from the 'Gerry Ryan Show' has prayed to the late broadcaster to get reinstated.

Noel Cawley (39), was dismissed by Target Express in January 2010 -- 82 days after he was reprimanded for pulling in on the M7 to answer the phone to Mr Ryan -- an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has heard.

He won a €2,000 prize and a trip to London from the show and remembers the late RTE 2fm presenter as a "brilliant man".

"If Gerry was still here, I think he'd have me on the show," he told the Irish Independent outside the EAT yesterday.

"I said a little prayer to him that I'd be reinstated before I went into the hearing," he added.

Mr Cawley was before the EAT in Kilkenny yesterday as he asked to be reinstated to his old job as an articulated truck driver, and apologised to his employers for delaying cargo by 24 minutes in November 2009.

Mark Dunne, for the company, said yesterday that Mr Cawley had not been dismissed over the phone call to the 'Gerry Ryan Show' but for a "serious breach of the company rules".

He said Mr Cawley had pulled in illegally on a motorway and alleged he had done an illegal U-turn on a national road. He had also been on a written warning at the time of the incident.

Mr Cawley denied the illegal U-turn, insisting that he had turned where it was safe to do so on a broken white line.

Mr Dunne said a reinstatement was "wholly unacceptable" to the company and "re-engagement is an impossibility".

Joe La Cumbre -- a former deputy chair of the ESB, who took on Mr Cawley's case on a no-fees basis as a trade unionist -- said the truck driver had "openly and readily" accepted his mistake.

He said he stopped on the motorway for eight minutes in total, but was on the radio show for three minutes. He had been up since 4.30am that morning and had taken painkillers for an earache and taken a drink of water.

Initially, Mr Cawley had been charged with 10 counts of gross misconduct. However, the tribunal has reduced this to three. It will give a written judgment on his dismissal in the coming weeks while all of the facts are taken into account.

Speaking afterwards, father-of-two Mr Cawley said he was stacking shelves in Superquinn on minimum wage since he lost his job. He was also struggling to pay his mortgage and "just wants (his) old job back".

He said he remembered Gerry Ryan fondly and felt like he "knew him" because he listened to him in the cab of the truck every day.

Irish Independent