The former project director of the UK City of Culture, Dermot McLaughlin is to leave his original position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT). Following an agreement, which is believed to involve an undisclosed ‘golden handshake’ his employment with TBCT will end on December 31, as the Dublin-based Trust is being wound down.
Mr McLaughlin had returned to his role of CEO of TBCT in May this year having stayed just five months in his Londonderry role from which he resigned for personal reasons. But, he was suspended from his Dublin role just days after his return there. A statement from Dublin City Council, the sole shareholder in TBCT, at the time said Mr McLaughlin had been suspended without prejudice and with pay pending an investigation.
On March 13 this year the Londonderry Sentinel highlighted the details of an internal Dublin City Council audit into the financial governance of TBCT and also of a previous audit report, The Latitude Report, which revealed a series of concerns about financial governance within the organisation. No blame was apportioned to any individual within TBCT throughout the various audit examinations.
The arrangement which saw Dermot McLaughlin return to his native city was one brokered by TBCT, the Strategic Investment Board in Belfast and Derry City Council. His role in Londonderry was paid at a rate in excess of €120,000. On his return to Londonderry in October 2012, Mr McLaughlin described himself as a ‘cultural lynch pin’. However, by March of 2013 he had resigned the position- he then took a period of vacation, and returned as CEO of TBCT on May 7, before his suspension from that role a week later. A decision to wind TBCT down completely was subsequently taken by Dublin City Council, who operate as its sole shareholder on behalf of the taxpayer in the Republic of Ireland.
On Sunday, December 1, 2013, it was reported that Dermot McLaughlin had launched legal proceedings against the board of TBCT. It was understood that he was alleging breach of contract and defamation, among other matters and was seeking unspecified damages.
The Derry Journal reported that sources close to Mr McLaughlin said: “Dermot is fighting back. He has been subjected since October 2012 to a persistent campaign of malicious leaks, rumour and innuendo, none of which has any basis in fact. He has been left with no option but to sue.”
However an agreement has now been reached.
A statement issued on behalf of TBCT said: “The Board of TBCT have reached agreement on a range of issues. It has been agreed in the light of the decision to wind down TBCT’s activities Mr McLaughlin is stepping down from his role as CEO. The Board acknowledges that during the past year extensive and often critical press coverage has been challenging for all concerned with TBCT, including Mr McLaughlin. The Board recognises Mr McLaughlin’s significant leadership role in steering the development of Temple Bar, Dublin’s Cultural Quarter since 2003 and wishes him well for the future.”
The Irish Independent is reporting that the agreement involved a ‘secret golden handshake’.
An email issued by Ray Yeates, Dublin City Council’s Arts Officer, prior to the above press statement and seen by the Sentinel says agreement was reached between legal representatives, and notes the leaving date: “After extensive negotiations between Dermot McLaughlin’s and TBCT’s legal representatives overseen by The Chair and with the support of the Shareholder Dermot McLaughlin is to step down as CEO as part of a confidential agreement on Dec 31st 2013. All legal proceedings against the Company and Directors by Dermot will be discontinued.”