Mc Mahon -v- Irish Road Haulage Association, [2009] IEHC 145 (2009)

Docket Number:2007 2148 P
Party Name:Mc Mahon, Irish Road Haulage Association
Judge:Laffoy J.
 
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THE HIGH COURT2007 2148 P

BETWEEN

PATRICK McMAHONPLAINTIFFAND

IRISH ROAD HAULAGE ASSOCIATIONDEFENDANT

Judgment of Miss Justice Laffoy delivered on the 24th day of March, 2009

The factual background

The defendant is a company limited by guarantee not having a share capital, which was incorporated on 13th July, 1973. Its primary object, as stated in its memorandum of association, is to organise, represent and protect the road transport industry and the business of road hauliers in the State or abroad. The articles of association of the defendant provide that its business shall be managed by the Council which consists of the officers of the defendant who are ex officio members, and members who are appointed by the Regional Divisions and the County Branches of the defendant which are established by the Council in accordance with the articles of association. As I understand it, in 2006 the Council comprised in the region of 40 to 45 officers and representatives. In 2006 the only provision in the articles of association for the expulsion of a member of the defendant was Article (11) which provided as follows: "If the conduct of any member is such as shall in the opinion of the Council be injurious to the character or interests of the Association or render him unfit to remain a member of the Association the Council may expel such member." The plaintiff has been engaged in the business of road haulage since 1964. His business has expanded over the years and he now has operations in Dublin and in Counties Clare and Westmeath, as well as at Ellesmere Port in England. He became a member of the defendant in or about 1974 or 1975. In June 2006 the plaintiff was the Chairman of the Dublin County Branch and he was a representative of his County Branch on the Council.

The events which gave rise to these proceedings occurred at a Council meeting of the defendant which was held in Portlaoise on 28th June, 2006. It is clear on the evidence that there was a history of tension between the plaintiff and the then President of the defendant, Vincent Caulfield, arising out of the election of the President in 2005, which the plaintiff had also contested. Although the plaintiff, in evidence, stated that he held no animosity towards Mr. Caulfield, he maintained that the election of Mr. Caulfield as President had been improper, and, indeed, the first letter from the plaintiff's solicitor to the defendant arising out of the events of 28th June, 2006 stated the plaintiff's position that Mr. Caulfield had not been properly elected. However, that point was not pursued by the plaintiff in these proceedings.

There was also evidence of tension at branch level between the plaintiff and other members of the Dublin County Branch, in particular, Mr. Liam Brewer.

The controversy which provoked the events at the Council meeting in Portlaoise was a letter written on 21st June, 2006 by the plaintiff to the Director of Services & County Engineer of Clare County Council (the County Engineer) complaining that roadworks in the Ennis area were being carried out in a manner which was dangerous to the public. The letter was written on letter heading which referred to "Dublin Branch I.R.H.A." and named the officers of the Dublin Branch. The letter purported to be written on behalf of the Dublin Branch and stated that the Dublin branch would hold the addressee "responsible for all damage or injury that may happen to the public". On 26th June, 2006, the County Engineer wrote to the Chief Executive of the defendant complaining about the conduct of the plaintiff and the content of his letter and references contained in it to identified employees of Clare County Council. The County Engineer sought clarification whether the plaintiff was representing the defendant in writing the letter.

The meeting of the Council in Portlaoise on 28th June, 2006 was attended by about 35 members of the Council. The plaintiff attended. At the meeting, Mr. Caulfield read out the plaintiff's letter to Clare County Council. Mr. Eugene Drennan, who has been a member of the defendant for 30 years, and who was at the meeting and who gave evidence on behalf of the plaintiff, testified that the members present felt that the letter had brought the defendant into disrepute. Mr. Brewer, who also testified, proposed a motion to expel the plaintiff from the defendant. His evidence was that he thought the plaintiff was out of control and was damaging the defendant. The motion was seconded. There was then a discussion on the motion. The plaintiff's evidence was that he was not allowed to speak to the motion. I am satisfied that that was not what happened. Mr. Drennan's evidence was that the plaintiff was allowed to speak, that he got up a number of times but he was slow on delivery and he did not get out what he wanted to say. The motion was put to a vote and was...

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