The children's charity, UNICEF, has defended its decision to dismiss its former executive director Melanie Verwoerd.

Her high-profile dismissal has been linked to her relationship with the late broadcaster, Gerry Ryan.

UNICEF, however, has not outlined the reason for her departure.

The charity said it had not agreed on the future profile and positioning of the charity in Ireland.

In statement, it said: ‘The Board decided that the differences could not be resolved and, acting in the interests of the organisation as a whole and most importantly, its mission, it decided unanimously to end her contract.

‘The termination provisions in her contract have been met in full and in addition, following negotiation with her solicitor, Ms Verwoerd was also paid two years salary in respect of the settlement.

‘Ms Verwoerd conditionally accepted the terms and sums through her solicitor. The settlement cheque has been encashed.’

The charity also confirmed that actor Liam Neeson has decided not to undertake a trip to Mozambique with the charity, because of his dissatisfaction of the dismissal.

Nor will Vanessa Redgrave take part in a benefit for UNICEF, planned for the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin in September.

UNICEF says it respects Ms Redgrave and Mr Neeson, and their rights to express their views.