McLaughlin could face suspension bid

Culture Company Project Director Dermot McLaughlin. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.. 29.10.12
Culture Company Project Director Dermot McLaughlin. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com.. 29.10.12
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A motion recommending the suspension of Dermot McLaughlin - Derry’s outgoing City of Culture project director - as chief executive of a troubled Dublin cultural body is expected to be proposed at a meeting next week.

The board of Temple Bar Cultural Trust (TBCT) - which manages commercial, residential and retail properties worth an estimated €9.4m in Dublin city centre - will discuss the unexpected resignation of its chief from his seconded post.

Derry native Dermot McLaughlin had been seconded to the city for a year but announced his resignation for “personal reasons” on Friday last after just five months in office.

It emerged that he intends to return to work next month with the TBCT. It is currently the focus of an audit which found serious corporate governance failiings during his time in charge.

It’s expected that a motion will be proposed recommending Mr. McLaughlin’s suspension pending full consideration by the board of the audit report, commissioned by Dublin City Council.

Mannix Flynn, a member of the board of TBCT and a Dublin City councillor, says he plans to recommend that the Trust - which he described as a “vehicle not fit for purpose” - be “wound down” as quickly as practicalities allow.

He also believes Dermot McLaughlin should “consider his position” in light of the audit report’s findings.

He described the findings of the audit report as “scandalous” and said they had the potential to have “major repercussions” for the cultural community in Ireland.

The ‘Irish Times’ reported yesterday that the council audit alleged questionable accountancy practices, undeclared fringe benefits for senior staff and serious breaches of the Companies Acts.

The most serious charge in the report was that the Trust’s board minutes and/or papers were “not available” to show it had approved an application for €2.5 million in loans from the Ulster Bank for a project.

Mr McLaughlin was a key player in Derry’s City of Culture team. He was responsible for maximising the economic and social benefits and had a central role in events programming, infrastructure development and marketing the city.

His appointment was part of a controversial shake-up of the Culture Company ordered by Derry City Council, which included bringing the marketing arm under the control of the local authority.

In a statement on Friday, the Strategic Investment Board (SIB), which oversaw his appointment, said he was leaving the post.

“Dermot McLaughlin has resigned from his role as Derry City Council’s City of Culture project director,” the statement read. “This was Mr McLaughlin’s decision, which he has taken for personal reasons.”

Meetings are expected to take place in the next few days to decide who, if anyone, will replace him.