Northern Ireland

Council chief executive Anne Donaghy takes victimisation case against employer

Suspended Mid & East Antrim Council chief executive Anne Donaghy outside the local authority's Ballymena offices. Picture by Peter Morrison
Suspended Mid & East Antrim Council chief executive Anne Donaghy outside the local authority's Ballymena offices. Picture by Peter Morrison

The suspended chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has taken a case against her employer alleging sexual, religious and political discrimination. 

Anne Donaghy's solictors KRW Law filed an application with The Industrial and Fair Employment Tribunal claiming victimisation against her employer. 

Ms Donaghy said: "I’ve been left really with little option but to proceed with this Tribunal Application. After the Council suspended me last year my solicitors announced in early December that I would be taking a legal challenge.

"I now do so without any hesitation. I have to say I am really looking forward to the chance to contest all the flawed decision making directed against me by the Council and other named individuals. This case cannot come quickly enough for me “.

Solicitor Kevin Winters of KRW LAW added: “This application has been filed with the Tribunal against a backdrop of a toxic campaign of vilification based on systemic leaks by the Council to sections of the media. I must stress this Claim is part of wider legal agitation by The Applicant which will also include plans for separate High court litigation against the Council.

In the meantime, given the huge sensitivities engaged here we ask for everyone to respect the need for total confidentiality on the specifics of the claim now lodged. There have been enough attempts already to undermine due process without compounding the problem."

Ms Donaghy, who has been on sick leave in recent months, was placed on precautionary suspension ahead of an independent investigation into claims of bullying and harassment.

The chief executive was suspended from her position as an investigation takes place into allegations of bullying at the controversy-hit local authority.

The suspension - which was circulated to councillors in a password-protected confidential email - was the latest incident to rock the council, and come in the wake of a police raid on its Ballymena headquarters in October and a BBC Spotlight investigation broadcast this week on the matter.

The search was part of investigation into suspected offences of misconduct in public office and under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The council has been under increasing scrutiny following a controversial decision in February to remove its staff from Larne Harbour over fears of a loyalist paramilitary threat against workers carrying out post-Brexit checks on animal and food products from Great Britain.

A PSNI assessment found no indication of any threat to staff.