herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Vet who wore Donald mask at meat plant contests 'savage' removal from post

Declan Gill
Declan Gill

A vet is challenging a "savage" decision to remove him from all temporary inspector panels after he wore a Donald Trump mask while working at a meat plant.

Dr Declan Gill wore the mask the day after the US presidential election "as a joke" and gave "a fist pump gesture a la Donald Trump" to a human resources manager at the Rosderra Irish Meats plant in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, his counsel Peter Ward told the High Court.

Following a complaint from the meat plant to the Department of Agriculture over the incident, a departmental decision group removed Dr Gill in February last year with immediate effect from temporary veterinary inspector panels, work from which he derives 70pc of his income.

This was a "savage sanction" and an unlawful decision made in breach of his right to fair procedures and without his having had an oral hearing, counsel added.

David Hardiman, for the department, argued that Dr Gill was alerted to the department's concerns in a letter sent by it to him a week after the November 9, 2016, mask incident and given an opportunity to make submissions.

The department's concerns included inappropriate and unprofessional attire and behaviour and of not fulfilling his contract in a professional manner, he said.

Difficulties

A "jest" is subjective and this "jest" was in the presence of the plant's human resources manager, Tony Delaney, with whom Dr Gill had said he had a past "history of difficulties", counsel said.

Mr Delaney had claimed that Dr Gill approached him with the Trump mask on, made a closed fist gesture and said "You're dead", leaving him feeling intimidated.

Dr Gill denied it was a closed fist gesture and the decision group had said it was not possible for them to assess whether there was a "threat event" and had not considered that aspect in reaching its decision.

Ms Justice Tara Burns is hearing proceedings by Dr Gill, of Castleconnell, Co Limerick, over the decision to remove him from all temporary veterinary panels which oversee slaughter of animals at meat plants.

In his judicial review, Dr Gill claims he was not afforded fair procedures by the department, particularly when his main income derives from being a veterinary inspector.

There was no issue when he wore a Barack Obama mask at the plant eight years earlier, he said.

Dr Gill has also claimed, arising from a number of matters over several years at Rosderra Meats, that Mr Delaney and others did not wish him rostered as an inspector there.

The hearing continues.

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