Minister could face contempt-of-court hearing
on 02/10/2013 20:30:29
Lawyers for two Department of Agriculture employees Vincent Gormley and James Scott claim the Minister is in contempt of court by breaching an undertaking not to fill two senior positions they had applied for.
In a late-night sitting before Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, the men's lawyers accepted the action is not aimed at having Minister Coveney, who denies any wrongdoing, personally jailed for any alleged contempt.
Earlier this year, Mr Gormley, of Brownsgrove, Tuam, Co Galway, and Mr Scott, of Glinsk, Ballymoe, Co Galway, launched a court challenge arising out out their non-appointment to the posts.
They claim that as part of those proceedings on July 30 last, the Minister's representatives gave an undertaking he would not appoint people to the inspector posts as advertised on April 12 last or until their legal challenge had been determined.
Their lawyers argue that despite the Minister's undertaking it appeared the positions in question had been filled.
As a result, they have sought an order seeking Minister Coveney's attachment and committal for alleged contempt.
Lawyers for the Minister have opposed the application and deny there was any breach of any undertaking.
Tonight, following the conclusion of submissions from both parties, Mr Justice Hogan said he was reserving judgment. The Judge said he would give his ruling on October 14 next.
Barrister Patrick O'Reilly SC for the men said the application was not brought with the intention of having Mr Coveney jailed.
Someone in the department should be held responsible for the breach, counsel said.
Mr Coveney in his capacity as Minister is responsible for the department's actions, counsel said. The proceedings were brought against Mr Coveney "in the corporate sense only" and it was accepted the Minister had no personal involvement in the alleged breach.
The Minister, represented by Eugene O Regan SC argued that "a draconian measure" such as the order sought should not be granted by the court.
The undertaking, he said, had related to an external advertisement process, while the issue before the court related to an internal advertisement process.