Unfair dismissal case raises question on governance of Active Retirement Network charity


Governance points in charities have come to the fore lately. There have been high-profile incidents of people behaving in a fashion that might not have been deemed acceptable in a company setting, the place focus is on accountability and the underside line. 

Now, questions are arising about one other charity, Lively Retirement Community Eire (ARNI).

ARNI does important work, organising actions for senior residents at an important stage in life. The membership-led organisation had 25,000 members pre-pandemic and is rebuilding. 

It’s staffed by a small govt crew of seven, however the board is made up of members. The manager crew is led by Maureen Kavanagh. 

Her son, Peter Kavanagh, who not too long ago accomplished a time period as mayor of South Dublin County Council, is the communications supervisor of ARNI.

Final Monday the Irish Examiner reported on a extremely controversial sacking within the organisation, which was deemed an “unfair dismissal” by the Office Relations Fee (WRC). 

Peter Kavanagh, who recently completed a term as mayor of South Dublin County Council, is the communications manager of ARNI. Picture: Marc O'Sullivan
Peter Kavanagh, who not too long ago accomplished a time period as mayor of South Dublin County Council, is the communications supervisor of ARNI. Image: Marc O’Sullivan

Siobhan Hopkins was summarily suspended in January 2020 after viewing an innocuous WhatsApp message on Peter Kavanagh’s workstation. Three months earlier, she had made a grievance underneath sick go away coverage about Peter Kavanagh.

Her suspension was described by the WRC as “opportunistic, punitive and effected with out due rigour”. Following a disciplinary course of — which concerned using 5 completely different HR guide companies and was criticised by the WRC — she was then dismissed. 

Dismissal ‘extraordinarily harsh’

A advice by an enchantment officer that she not be dismissed was ignored. The WRC described the dismissal as “extraordinarily harsh” and one which “no affordable worker would have [done] within the circumstances”. 

The WRC additionally criticised varied conflicts of curiosity within the case, notably that of the CEO being concerned in a course of towards an worker who had beforehand complained about her son.

Now, it’s rising that there have been different points to the sacking of Ms Hopkins that give rise to questions of governance. Following a sequence of questions from the Irish Examiner earlier this week, an emergency board assembly of ARNI was convened on Wednesday final.

At challenge is whether or not or not the board of ARNI had any detailed data of the dismissal of Siobhan Hopkins or whether or not they had been successfully saved in the dead of night. 

The Irish Examiner has discovered that minutes from the board assembly across the time she was dismissed don’t have any particular reference to the dismissal and no dialogue on it. Neither do the minutes from the time document that the appeals officer choice was ignored.

Siobhan Hopkins was knowledgeable of her dismissal by letter in October 2020. The letter was signed by Maureen Kavanagh and the then president of ARNI, Kay Murphy. Ms Murphy’s signature was in digital type.

Earlier this yr, Ms Hopkins contacted Kay Murphy as she was nonetheless aggrieved over how she had been handled, however the vindication she acquired on the WRC.

Responding to her, Ms Murphy wrote: “Thanks to your electronic mail. Stunning because it was. Your letter of dismissal was a complete new revelation to me and it’s the very first time I’ve seen it … I definitely didn’t write it.” 

Kay Murphy confirmed this place to the Irish Examiner. “I’m fairly positive I didn’t signal it,” she says. 

Once I turned conscious of it I rang the CEO and he or she knowledgeable me that my board had instructed me to signal it. I requested to be despatched the minutes of the September 2020 board assembly however I heard nothing since. 

This newspaper has seen the minutes from the September 2020 board assembly. The minutes don’t embody an instruction to dismiss Siobhan Hopkins, nor make any reference to her dismissal. The one reference to the case is in relation to a grievance process Ms Hopkins had taken over how she had been handled.

‘Unease’ over dealing with of matter

Serving and former board members of ARNI confirmed there was “a variety of unease” over the dealing with of the matter, each due to the way it mirrored on the organisation and in sympathy for Siobhan Hopkins, who was identified to most of the board members.

To that finish, a variety of motions had been positioned earlier than this yr’s AGM, performed final Could, however had been dominated out of order. The present president, Anne Drury, instructed the Irish Examiner that these had been successfully statements introduced as motions. She mentioned anyone who needed their say on the AGM was given the chance to take action.

At Active Retirement Ireland’s launch of ‘The Old Country’ audio series on community radio stations in Ireland were Cllr. Peter Kavanagh, mayor of South Dublin; Teresa Quinn, volunteer and presenter with CRAOL Community Radio; Pat Quinn of CRAOL Community Radio Ireland; and Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland.
At Lively Retirement Eire’s launch of ‘The Previous Nation’ audio sequence on group radio stations in Eire had been Cllr. Peter Kavanagh, mayor of South Dublin; Teresa Quinn, volunteer and presenter with CRAOL Neighborhood Radio; Pat Quinn of CRAOL Neighborhood Radio Eire; and Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Lively Retirement Eire.

In the meantime, across the identical time, Siobhan Hopkins wrote to ARNI on foot of her interplay with Kay Murphy. She accused ARNI of forgery in relation to Ms Murphy’s signature on the dismissal letter.

A reply was ready by main Dublin legislation agency Mason Hayes Curran, dated April 20, 2022. It refuted the allegation of forgery.

It went on: “Ms Kay Murphy, who was then the president of ARNI, was actively concerned within the conferences, correspondence and decision-making regarding your disciplinary and dismissal from the organisation in 2020.” 

For well being and security issues arising out of Covid-19, and for comfort, Ms Murphy’s signature was electronically positioned in your dismissal letter. She had full data of the content material of the letter and consented to her signature being affixed thereto. 

The correspondence additionally acknowledged Ms Murphy had been copied on the e-mail containing the dismissal letter.

For some cause, the e-mail was by no means despatched however two months after it was drafted, Kay Murphy acquired a replica from the board of ARNI. She was extraordinarily irritated over how she was represented in it and wrote instantly to the authorized agency. 

“Mason Hayes Curran act for Lively Retirement Eire; that is correct. Nonetheless, you don’t act for me. I’ve had no communication out of your workplace relating to your correspondence dated 20 April 2022.” She mentioned she discovered this alarming.

She addressed her alleged function within the decision-making course of about Siobhan Hopkins.

“Not solely was I not ‘actively concerned’ in any decision-making course of, relating to the allegations towards Siobhan Hopkins, I used to be not concerned in any respect.” 

She additionally refuted she had full data of the letter or consented for her signature to be hooked up to it.

I’ve repeatedly requested copies of the minutes of the assembly the place it’s alleged that I had data of this letter and consented to have my signature electronically affixed thereto. These minutes haven’t been forthcoming. 

Ms Murphy instructed the Irish Examiner that in 2020, she did obtain experiences as the method towards Ms Hopkins was progressing, however she was not consulted and didn’t partake in any conferences concerning the matter.

Two individuals who had been members of the board in 2020 have confirmed their recollection of occasions coincides with that of Kay Murphy.

The present president (ARNI makes use of the time period president for chair of the board) Anne Drury instructed the Irish Examiner the dismissal was a choice of the board. 

Following the emergency board assembly on Wednesday, Ms Drury issued a press release saying the board “is conscious that some people stay sad as to how sure HR issues have been handled and this shall be raised as the following board assembly”.

Maureen Kavanagh instructed the WRC she had a superb working relationship with Siobhan Hopkins earlier than the WhatsApp incident involving her son Peter. But Ms Hopkins was dismissed in an costly, convoluted course of which has been closely criticised by the WRC. 

It stays unclear the extent to which the board was conscious of what was happening, whether or not they sanctioned it or whether or not they had been, as a few of them contend, saved in the dead of night.

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