A TRUCK driver sacked after pulling his lorry on to a motorway hard shoulder to take a call from the Gerry Ryan Show was unfairly dismissed, an employment appeals tribunal ruled.
Noel Cawley (39) was dismissed by Target Express in January 2010 -- 82 days after he was told off for pulling in on the M7 to speak to the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan.
Cawley had apologised to his employer for taking the call, but revealed he was not thinking straight after he had won €2,000 and a trip to London from the RTE 2fm radio show.
The firm had also taken issue with Cawley for alleged gross misconduct.
Yesterday, Cawley said he was delighted after he was awarded €32,000 in compensation when the tribunal agreed he was unfairly dismissed.
"I'm happy it is behind me now and I can find work. I feel vindicated and hope that somebody might look upon this and offer me a job," he said.
Cawley had asked to be reinstated in his old job as an articulated lorry driver; however, he said the company made it clear this was not an option.
The married father, who lives in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, has been looking for work ever since his dismissal.
He said he was very happy with yesterday's outcome as the compensation would go towards paying off bills accrued by his family while he was unemployed.
Cawley was a fan of the 2fm broadcaster Gerry Ryan and described him as a brilliant man. He tuned into his radio show every day while driving his truck.
The tribunal in Kilkenny previously heard that Cawley had delayed cargo by 24 minutes in November 2009, on the date he took the call from the Gerry Ryan Show.
Mark Dunne for the company, however, said Cawley had not been sacked over the phone call, but for a "serious breach of the company rules".
He said 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 given an earlier written warning.
Cawley denied the illegal U-turn, insisting that he had turned where it was safe to do so, on a broken white line.
Joe La Cumbre -- a former deputy chair of the Electricity Supply Board, who took on Cawley's case on a no-fees basis as a trade unionist -- said he was delighted the truck driver's name had been cleared.
"One of the reasons I took on the case was that Noel is a decent young man," La Cumbre said. "For more than two years, he has been out of work and hasn't been able to get a job because he had been dismissed. He has now been vindicated".
The written judgment on Cawley's unfair dismissal will be published by the tribunal within 14 days.