Longford County Council has been told it must reinstate a 68-year-old lorry driver and allow him to remain on its pay roster until he reaches his 70th birthday.

The Labour Court found in favour of long-serving employee Michael Neilon in a claim of unfair dismissal against the local authority.

Mr Neilon claimed the council had "forced" him to retire upon reaching his 66th birthday on 5 May 2017 despite his insistence the customary age for lorry drivers to ordinarily retire was 72.

His legal represenative, William Martin-Smith BL, told the court the custom and practice for outdoor road workers was to retire at 72 and provided details of named colleagues as examples.

Based on those grounds, he said, his client had a "legitimate expectation" that he too would be entitled to work until his 72nd birthday.

He also claimed the local authority had, despite repeated attempts, failed to provide Mr Neilon with a copy of his contract of employment.

Furthermore, Mr Martin-Smith said his client, together with a number of fellow colleagues, had been given a verbal assurance by a senior county council official in April 2006 at a meeting in Edgeworthstown that he could remain in employment up to the age of 70.

The council told the hearing that Mr Neilon retired in accordance with the normal and agreed retirement age for employees of the local authority - which was 66 - and the dismissal by way of retirement was not unfair.

Keith Irvine, of the Local Government Agency and acting on behalf of the council, said there was nothing untoward in how his client had acted.

He told of how Mr Neilon was classified as an outdoor worker and in this instance his terms and conditions of employment were in accordance with his grade within the local authority service.

He said the council acknowledged that during the period from 1998 to 2006, a small number of employees - nine in total - remained in employment after the accepted and recognised retirement age for outdoor employees.

But he said that from 2009 to 2018, a total of 85 employees had retired from the council. Of these, only one was permitted to remain on past 66 years of age.

The court said although it had been furnished with a 'Superannuation Revision Scheme, 1977', which may have been applicable to Mr Neilon, the document carried no specific retirement age.

It also said it was significant that other colleagues of Mr Neilon had been allowed to continue in employment beyond the age of 66.

In the absence of a clear retirement policy applicable to Mr Neilon, the court said it was not unreasonable for Mr Neilon to have an expectation that he would continue in employment beyond his 66th birthday.

In deeming his dismissal unfair, the council was ordered to reinstate Mr Neilon to his former position until he reaches the age of 70.