herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Fired athletics chief settles in dismissal case

A HIGH Court dispute about the sacking of former Irish athletics chief Mary Coghlan was settled yesterday.

Mary Coghlan sued the Athletic Association of Ireland (AAI) and the Irish Sports Council (ISC), claiming her dismissal was invalid.

She also claimed the ISC, which distributes government funding to sporting bodies, was guilty of misfeasance in public office by putting pressure on the AAI to fire her. She further claimed she was defamed by AAI president John Hennessy in comments he made to an Oireachtas Committee.

Following talks yesterday, the fourth day of the hearing, Marcus Dowling, counsel for Ms Coghlan, told High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns the case had been settled and could be struck out with no order.

The judge said he was glad the parties had come to an amicable settlement and he was satisfied there was goodwill on both sides. Cases such as these took on a life of their own and could be sometimes difficult to reverse, he said.

In her action, Ms Coghlan claimed ISC chief executive John Treacy and board member Ossie Kilkenny were hostile to her from her first days in the job.

She claimed Mr Kilkenny described her as a "cancer" which had to be removed if the ISC was to continue funding the AAI.

The defendants denied the claims and Mr Kilkenny said the "cancer" remark was not about Ms Coghlan but about issues which were being discussed between the AAI and the ISC.

When proceedings opened last week, Brian O'Moore SC, for Ms Coghlan, told the court the issue in this case was whether the ISC could "effectively bludgeon and compel" a non-governmental body to dismiss its chief executive.

Ms Coghlan "faced the resistance and hostility" of two powerful men in Irish sport -- Mr Treacy and Mr Kilkenny -- from the day she was appointed, counsel said.

It arose out of the ISC's desire to control the AAI's high-performance unit for athletes as well as the appointment of the organisation's director of athletics, counsel said.

Mr O'Moore also said Mr Kilkenny had supplied a "dishonest" statement to Minister for Sport, Martin Cullen, omitting an "extraordinary" comment he made at a meeting with the AAI board in which he described Ms Coghlan as "a cancer" within the organisation.

hnews@herald.ie

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