Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy has insisted that both she and county secretary Kevin O'Donovan acted in good faith with regard to the redundancy of former senior administrator Diarmuid O'Donovan.
At tonight’s county board meeting at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, county board secretary Kevin O’Donovan read a statement outlining the chain of events that led to O’Donovan leaving his post on January 30. Having been offered redundancy, O’Donovan had sought a court injunction to prevent himself being removed from the role before negotiations led to a settlement.
A fortnight ago at the previous meeting, delegates had been critical of the board’s handling of the situation, but it wasn’t possible for board figures to comment on certain aspects. On Tuesday, Kennedy and O’Donovan sought to provide more clarity.
“There was no solo run,” O’Donovan said.
“It is standard in cases such as this for a recommendation to come from the chair and secretary to the executive, which then makes a decision, but the injunction prevented this.”
Kennedy added: “The proposed redundancy was not intended to impugn the performance of Diarmuid O’Donovan, the role always intended to conclude with the retirement of Frank Murphy as county secretary.
However, St Nicholas delegate Jerry Howe was unhappy with the manner of how the issue was dealt with.
“Anyone who has been through the redundancy process can see it was handled in a negligent way,” he said.
“Diarmuid O’Donovan was summoned to a meeting and presented with termination, a derisory settlement. He was told that if he didn’t accept it before the executive meeting, that payment would be withdrawn.
“If that HR advice came from Croke Park, then God help us now with the same body now in control of our greatest asset [Páirc Uí Chaoimh].”
Don Hegarty (Carrraig na bhFear) agreed that the advice received could have been better. Cill na Martra’s Gearóid Ó hÉalaithe enquired as to who decided on the figure and Kennedy said that there was a statutory payment and then, based on legal advice, an ex gratia figure based on a number of factors.
“We acted in good faith and sought advice, we didn’t want it to develop as it did,” she said, while Kevin O’Donovan pointed out that figures reported were incorrect.
Regarding a query from John Quirke (Blarney) on the process, Kennedy said that the intention had been to bring a recommendation to the executive, but the injunction was taken before that could proceed.
“Nothing was a fait accompli,” she said, “the executive’s view would have been taken on board. I reject the notion that this was handled in a negligent way.
“The advice received was that the employee should have been consulted before anyone else and that letter outlining the advice is available for clubs to see if they wish to request it.”
John O’Flynn (Freemount) complimented the chairperson and secretary on their openness.
“I questioned in 2017 if we needed a secretary and an administrator,” he said.
“Everyone’s asking about procedure, but the surprising element in this is that it was taken straight to the High Court when you know in 99 cases out of 100 that it will come back and be renegotiated.
“I’m disappointed with the reaction to the proposal, which I assume was fair. The only winners here were the legal people.”
Regarding the Páirc Uí Chaoimh pitch, which came in for criticism after the Cork-Kildare football league game and Cork-Wexford hurling clash, Kennedy outlined how there was a fundamental structural issue.
“We didn’t realise how bad it was,” she said, “the irony is that a report landed on the Monday, if it had come to us on the Friday then the games wouldn’t have been played.
“A number of people looked at the pitch and the groundstaff, led by Stephen Forrest, have done great work. Our concerns were weather-related rather than anything else.
“There’s a conference-call meeting of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh board tomorrow [Wednesday] and a decision will be made then on when the work should take place. At this stage, it’s likely that the remainder of our home league games will be in Páirc Uí Rinn.”
John O’Donovan of Clann nan Gael enquired if the height of the South Stand was an issue and if grow-lights had been used. Kevin O’Donovan said that these were factors and, going forward, the options were a more durable, more expensive, pitch or a normal pitch with the grow-lights, with neither a cheap option.
Passage delegate Matt Aherne lamented the fact that one journalist in the Irish Examiner and another in the Sunday Independent had used the pitch as a platform to criticise all aspects of Cork GAA.
Bob Ryan, previously the stadium operations manager, said that grow-lights were trialled last year and had a positive effect. However, he said that, “the idiotic thing was that two matches were played, football before hurling, and two juvenile games were played too.”
Kevin O’Donovan replied that he would “take all the blame before blaming the small boyeens that got a chance to play.”
Regarding recent poor performances by the Cork senior football team, Tracey Kennedy said she had had a chat with manager Ronan McCarthy.
“An issue raised with me was that two selectors [Ciarán O’Sullivan and Eamonn Ryan] had left and not been replaced,” she said.
“Ronan is working on that and I’d hope to have something for you before the next meeting. As well, the five-year plan is rolling into action, the first advertisements will be appearing in the next few weeks.
“They should bring about some improvements, but you can’t expect miracles overnight.”
Meanwhile, Colm O’Neill (Ballyclough), Maurice Moore (Carbery Rangers) and Pat Spratt (Buttevant) have been appointed as Cork U20 football selectors by new manager Keith Ricken. Elsewhere, Cork footballer Liam O’Donovan is set to miss a period of six-to-eight weeks after picking up a knee injury in Sunday’s Allianz FL loss to Clare.