O'Doherty unfair dismissal case adjourned

Friday 09 May 2014 21.59
Gemma O'Doherty was made redundant by Independent News and Media in August 2013
Gemma O'Doherty was made redundant by Independent News and Media in August 2013

An unfair dismissal case taken by a former Irish Independent journalist accused of "doorstepping" former garda commissioner Martin Callinan was adjourned today.

Lawyers for the Irish Independent have argued that the case before the Employment Appeals Tribunal should be adjourned pending a High Court defamation case by the journalist Gemma O'Doherty against the newspaper and group editor-in-chief Stephen Rae.

Ms O'Doherty, from Shankill in Dublin, was made redundant by Independent News and Media in August 2013 after more than 18 years working for the company.

Ms O'Doherty has said she was chosen in the wake of a conflict that followed her calling to the home of Mr Callinan.

The Irish Independent has said she was selected fairly.

Brian Kennedy SC, for the Independent, said it was "vigorously disputed" that Ms O'Doherty was chosen as retribution for her investigating a story on Mr Callinan having his penalty points quashed.

He said Ms O'Doherty had decided to show up at the home of Mr Callinan at 10pm on 11 April 2013 without informing her editor. Mr Callinan was away and his wife answered the door.

Mr Kennedy said Mrs Callinan was somewhat upset as was Mr Callinan when he heard of the incident.

Mr Kennedy said the newspaper apologised to the gardaí and Ms O'Doherty's story appeared on the front page of the paper a week later.

The decision to make Ms O'Doherty redundant was about the nature of services she provided, not the quality, Mr Kennedy added.

The newspaper group had sought cost savings of €26 million, which included 29 staff reductions, he said.

He also asked for an adjournment of the case pending a High Court defamation action.

He said there was an overlap between the issues in the defamation case taken by Ms O'Doherty and the tribunal case and there was also a threatened personal injuries case, which if it went ahead, would involve a risk of "triple recovery".

There was also a risk of prejudicing a jury in the High Court case, said Mr Kennedy.

Cathy Maguire, for Ms O'Doherty described the case as a "common or garden unfair dismissal".

She said Ms O'Doherty had been an exemplary employee and award-winning journalist before a conflict occurred.

Ms Maguire said her client did not accept there had been "a doorstep" of Mr Callinan and said she was checking his address.

She said this was followed by heated contacts between Ms O'Doherty and management, and her status was reduced.

When she complained about her byline and photograph being removed from the travel section of the paper without consultation, she was referred back to the penalty points story and the company immediately moved to make her redundant.

Ms Maguire opposed any adjournment, saying normal redundancy procedures were not followed and Ms O'Doherty was not warned she was vulnerable to being made redundant.

The case was adjourned pending written submissions and a decision on whether it should be heard before or after the defamation case.