Goal founder denies bullying as he blocks suspension bid

Goal founder John O’Shea has blocked a bid to suspend him, denying claims of bullying and alleging there was a “concerted action” to remove him from his post.

The Goal CEO secured an interim High Court order yesterday evening rejecting complaints by some Goal staff of “institutionalised bullying”, claiming they were “false and concocted”, the court heard.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was told there appeared to be a “personality clash” between Goal chairman Pat O’Mahony and Mr O’Shea. Mr O’Shea had been told not to attend a board meeting last week where a vote to suspend him was defeated by six votes to five.

Mr O’Shea, who set up Goal 35 years ago, feared an effort to suspend him might be made at a board meeting fixed for 5pm yesterday, his counsel Paul McGarry said.

Ms Justice Laffoy said she was satisfied to grant an interim order restraining the taking of steps at that meeting to deal with Mr O’Shea’s position.

Lawyers for Goal will be given a chance to respond on Friday.

The court heard complaints by some staff were put to Mr O’Shea last week, including a letter from managers in relation to his general conduct. Allegations were also made of a culture of “institutionalised bullying”.

A disciplinary inquiry was put in place by Goal which Mr O’Shea’s legal team contended was not properly established.

The court was told Mr O’Shea had no recollection of signing a formal contract and was in open-ended employment.

He initiated the court action because he felt huge distress, stress and anxiety and this was all occurring with no regard to fair procedures, counsel added.

Mr O’Mahony was appointed chairman this year and Mr O’Shea was told he would have a less involved role in the group.

At the end of 2011, the former chief executive of the FAI Fran Rooney resigned in dramatic fashion from his position on the board of Goal following strong differences of opinion with Mr O’Shea.

Mr Rooney had been involved in a forensic analysis of Goal’s legal structure for the purpose of modernising its corporate governance, improving supervision and bringing the agency, founded in 1977, into the 21st century.

During 2010, five members of Goal’s board of directors resigned. On Jan 5, 2011, a sixth director, John Wilson, resigned.

Mr O’Shea has always maintained that no Goal employee is paid over €100,000. However, this conflicts with the charity’s audited financial statements for 2010, which show two employees were paid up to €115,000.

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