AIB boss rejects bullying rulings

A senior manager with AIB has told the High Court he does not accept he bullied anyone, despite an internal investigation that upheld 11 complaints of bullying against him.

John Heapes, AIB’s head of commercial banking with AIB Galway, denied bullying Sean McHugh, who was employed as a senior manager at the bank’s business centre in Galway.

Mr McHugh, aged 54, of Ballard, Barna, Co Galway has sued AIB for damages arising out of his alleged treatment by his superior. He claims the bullying occurred in late 2010 and during 2011.

An investigation by AIB upheld 11 complaints of bullying against Mr Heapes, made no decision in respect of four others, and dismissed a further nine. A report into the bullying made several recommendations, which Mr McHugh claims were not implemented by AIB.

He further claims the bullying continued while the matter was under investigation. Mr McHugh claims he was subjected to bullying and harassment by Mr Heapes, who was appointed to his position in Oct 2010. Mr McHugh says he and other staff were isolated and intimidated by Mr Heapes.

Mr McHugh originally claimed he was suspended on full pay in Sept 2012 in retaliation for making the bullying claim against Mr Heapes. However, on the fourth day of the action yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan was told that part of the action was no longer being pursued.

Mr McHugh, the court heard, is now also prepared to take part in the bank’s internal investigation into allegations against him. These include that he had a conflict of interest over the sanctioning of loans of up to €100,000 to directors of former League of Ireland team Galway United.

Mr McHugh, who denies any conflict of interest, was the club’s licensing officer. He says he held the voluntary position with the full knowledge of AIB, and had no day-to-day involvement with the club’s financial management. He says the loans were made for valid reasons and had the approval of his superiors.

Yesterday, Mr Heapes denied he had bullied any staff members in Galway. He said he was shocked when 11 complaints of bullying were upheld against him.

He said he was moved to Galway as acting business manager and had held a similar position in Sligo. No allegation of bullying was made against him during his time there, he said.

He said he was moved to the business centre in Galway at what was a difficult time for AIB.

Mr Heapes said while he did not agree with the findings of bullying against him, he did not appeal them, and told the court he wanted to draw a line under the issue.

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