Decision on newspaper CEO case due next week

The price Thomas Crosbie Holdings paid Brian Nerney, former chief executive of the Roscommon Herald, for the newspaper in 2004 is to remain a secret at least until Monday.

That is when Mr Justice Michael Peart will rule if Mr Nerney, of Carrick Rd, Boyle, Co Roscommon, should be granted an injunction restraining the Cork-based newspaper group from dismissing him as CEO of the weekly newspaper, or an order reinstating him to the position.

Barrister Patrick O’Reilly, counsel for Mr Nerney, was granted a temporary injunction restraining publication by the media of the price Mr Nerney received in a share purchase agreement.

Mr O’Reilly submitted to the court there had been no relevant necessity for TCH group human resources manager Barry Colgan stating in an affidavit the exact price paid for the Roscommon Herald.

Mr Colgan had told the court that Mr Nerney retained the premises and had remained as landlord of the offices occupied by the weekly newspaper, which had formerly been owned by his parents.

Mr Justice Peart said the share purchase agreement had included a confidentiality clause and he issued a formal direction that it should not be reported or made public until he gave his decision next Monday.

Eoin Clifford, counsel for TCH, said an employer was entitled as of right to dismiss an employee where that position had become redundant or dismiss him in terms of his contract of employment.

The four-year contract as CEO had started in 2004 and had not been terminated in 2008. It had gone forward to 2012 and again had not been terminated. He submitted that the contract had become one of indefinite duration.

Mr Clifford said TCH had no issue with an early trial of the employment dispute. Mr Nerney had already been paid €46,000 salary up to Jan 16, 2013, by way of six months’ notice and had been given a cheque for €32,000 for statutory redundancy. He said should the court, following a full trial, hold in favour of Mr Nerney then damages for wrongful dismissal or for breach of contract would be an adequate remedy.

Mr Clifford said Mr Nerney was far from being destitute and it was in these terms that TCH had rightly stated the value of the share purchase agreement it had made with him in 2004.

He said it was incumbent on the court to look at Mr Nerney’s conduct throughout the redundancy process. He had refused to participate in a consultation and had not appealed the decision to terminate his employment.

The court heard that Mr Nerney had been told in June last that TCH was considering making his position redundant. He had been receiving an annual salary of €80,590 with a €12,000 annual car allowance with TCH paying a pension contribution of 7.5% of salary.

Mr Justice Peart said he would give his decision on Monday next.


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