Cross-examination begins in Henchy case

The former chief executive of Dairygold has said he wants his name vindicated and to be compensated for past loss of earnings as a result of his court action.

Businessman Jerry Henchy (48) from Kilmallock, Co Limerick is suing his former employers for around €8m in damages arising from his dismissal for “spurious reasons” to do with alleged financial irregularities with his farm account. He is also suing the cooperative for alleged defamation over articles that appeared in the national and international press subsequently. Dairygold contest all counts.

Henchy told his counsel Mr Patrick Hanratty SC that he believed he would not be able to find another job until his name was cleared of a connection with financial impropriety. “My name would be cleared so that in future when people Google my name they will see there are no financial improprieties about my name and I am worthy of being considered for interview.”

Henchy said that he had applied for numerous positions since his dismissal from Dairygold and subsequently from subsidiary company Reox Holdings Ltd in the early months of 2009. He had not once been called for interview. He denied that the lack of consideration was simply down to a lack of qualifications. “I had skills well beyond what were considered for these positions.”

He told Mr Justice Daniel Herbert that when recruiters and head hunters received his CV the first thing they would do was to type his name into an Internet search engine. Henchy said that articles alleging his dismissal from Dairygold were linked to problems with his farming account featured prominently in these results. “You say that somebody who held a very senior position could then become the victim for life of a piece of blaggardly newspaper reporting,” asked Judge Herbert. Henchy agreed that this could be so.

Henchy told the court that he had been approached by headhunting company AMROP while he was still CEO of Dairygold on two occasions. It offered him the opportunity to interview for senior positions with Cement Road Holding and VHI. But after his dismissal the same company wouldn’t even offer him an interview.

“Right or wrong I seemed to be a person who was being considered for serious positions prior to this. Then after this it all stopped.”

Henchy said he had applied for work with food industry companies in both Ireland and abroad. He said he had applied for a job in Saudi Arabia and another that would have involved dealing with the dairy farming industry in Latin America where he already had experience and could speak some Spanish and Portuguese. He did not get an interview in either case.

Henchy told the court that he had not worked since his dismissal. He said that his wife had been forced to go out to find work. She was an electrical engineer, he explained, and had found consultancy work. He said that his beef farm had always run at a loss and he did not make money on it since he was not eligible for the Single Farm Payment scheme.

Henchy told Judge Herbert that he did not want to be compensated for future lost earnings. “I want to work. I need a job. I don’t need it to be in the food industry, in any industry. I need to get interviews.”

In cross examination Henchy told Dairygold’s counsel Mr Paul Gardiner SC that he farmed approximately 10 acres of dairy land at his home as well as a further 90 acres on a site a few miles away. He agreed that he had paid around €1m for the second site in around 2006. Henchy said that neither site had made money since he had started farming them.

Gardiner asked him why there were so few documents concerning his employment with Reox among the documentary evidence. He asked Henchy whether the documents had been disclosed by Dairygold or whether they were from a “filing cabinet” in Henchy’s house.

Dairygold contests all Henchy’s allegations. The case continues tomorrow in the Four Courts in Dublin.

By Abigail Rieley 

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