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Statement from Unicef

In its second statement on the Melanie Verwoerd sacking, Unicef Ireland said last night that the former executive director of the charity was dismissed because of her "refusal to accept the board's view of the matter as being a negative issue for the success of Unicef Ireland's mission and the lack of agreement on a sufficiently adequate approach to address the issue".

In a statement issued at 4pm yesterday, the charity said it wanted, for the sake of those involved "and the memory of the late Mr Ryan, to avoid bringing this sensitive matter into the glare of the media".

"Instead it sought to address the matter in a professional, open and dignified manner with Ms Verwoerd with the objective of working together with her to agree how best to ensure that this situation was corrected ultimately for the sake of the children Unicef serves."

The board says it is very sympathetic to Ms Verwoerd "over her loss" but "over the past year or so, Unicef Ireland's story in the media was being overshadowed by stories relating to the private life of its executive director, Melanie Verwoerd".

It goes on: "It would have been a dereliction of its duty for the board not to address this fact so that it could be better controlled and overcome over time.

"Regrettably, Ms Verwoerd did not accept the board's view that media reports of her private life were an unwelcome distraction for the organisation and did not fulfil the board's request for her to develop a plan for how media attention could be refocused on Unicef Ireland. In addition, Ms Verwoerd would not agree to the board's suggestion that she entrust the function of a spokesperson for Unicef Ireland to another executive for a period of six months in order to facilitate a refocusing of media interest onto Unicef Ireland's work."

With Ms Verwoerd "at odds" with the board "and without any hope of agreement on this key issue", the board said it was compelled to take steps to end its contract and made an ex-gratia payment of two years' salary.

"Ms Verwoerd lost the confidence of the board of Unicef Ireland. If Ms Verwoerd pursues a case through the Employment Appeals Tribunal, then Unicef Ireland will defend its decision at the tribunal."

Sunday Independent