Ex-Garda diver appeals Isle of Man dismissal
LORNA SIGGINS Marine Correspondent
A FORMER Garda diver who won several bravery awards and a United Nations medal for service in Bosnia is appealing his dismissal from a diving post he held with the Isle of Man transport department.
Sean O’Connell, who also participated in an international diving expedition to the Titanic, claims he was sacked by the Isle of Man department because of concerns he had raised about safety and management issues.
Bernard Moffatt, who recently retired from the Unite trade union and has been representing Mr O’Connell, says he has never witnessed anything like the treatment of him in more than a quarter of a century of trade union work.
Mr O’Connell left the Garda diving unit in 1999, a year after he received the Scott medal for bravery. Following service with the UN in Bosnia, he began working on contract as a commercial diver for the Isle of Man transport department.
In July 2006 he was taken to the Douglas hyperbaric chamber for decompression sickness, known as the “bends”, following a work-related dive at a reservoir.
He returned to duty almost immediately but in September 2006 was diagnosed with a hole in the heart and says he was threatened with dismissal. After intervention by Unite, the transport department agreed to pay for his successful heart surgery.
He returned to work in February 2007, but in October of that year developed a prolapsed spinal disc and was on sick leave until the following April. By this stage he was concerned there had been no official investigation into the July 2006 diving incident.
He lodged complaints in February 2008, having discovered that the log for the dive in July 2006 had been altered to show different start and finish times.
He remained off work on special leave, but matters came to a head at his return-to-work interview in October 2008, when he lodged a data access request. The issue was referred to the Whitley council, a wages and conditions negotiating body for the Isle of Man public sector, but the department dismissed him last spring.
He has appealed his dismissal to an employment tribunal which will be heard later next month. Ian Litherland of the department of transport said it had no comment.