Former harbour master in Killybegs wins Supreme Court appeal

A former harbour master in Killybegs has won his Supreme Court appeal over his dismissal in 2009.

Yesterday, the five-judge court unanimously found in Patrick J. Kelly’s favour, with Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne saying that former minister Mary Coughlan should not have participated at a cabinet meeting at which the decision was taken to dismiss him.

Mr Kelly was dismissed following an investigation which found he had private marine service business interests that were in conflict with his role as a civil servant.

However, the Irish Times reports that the Supreme Court has found the decision to dismiss him should be quashed on grounds including that former minister Mary Coughlan, who had made complaints about him, should not have attended a cabinet meeting when the decision to fire him was made.

She had complained about Mr Kelly in 2004.

The court held that her presence resulted in the government’s decision being tainted.

The court rejected Mr Kelly’s claim that he was dismissed contrary to fair process.

His challenge against a recommendation in a report to the Minister for the Marine for his dismissal had previously been rejected by the High Court, and in 2019 the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.

He then secured permission to bring an appeal before the Supreme Court.

Another judge on the Supreme Court, Mr Justice Donal O Donnell, said he had taken a preliminary view that the matter could return before the current cabinet, which could consider the report where it was recommended that Mr Kelly be dismissed.

He said the court would hear counsel for the parties on what was the appropriate course to take in light of the Supreme Court judgement.