Sport NI chief settles fair employment dispute

November 19, 2018

The chief executive of Sport NI, Antoinette McKeown, has settled a fair employment dispute with the sporting body. 

Ms McKeown, from Silverbridge, had been suspended in 2014 and was sacked two years later following a disciplinary process.  In September 2017 she was reinstated after an independent appeals panel upheld her challenge to each of the seven grounds of her dismissal, saying it had found flaws within the organisation’s disciplinary procedures. 

The south Armagh woman became the first female to be appointed chief executive of Sport NI in 2013.  The publicly-funded body has an annual budget of around £30m and is aimed at encouraging participation in sport.

A fair employment tribunal was scheduled to begin on Monday last (12th November), but a spokesman for Ms McKeown revealed that she had settled the tribunal with Sport NI just days before.

“From the outset this tribunal was not Ms McKeown’s preferred choice, however the board of Sport NI have now accepted the harm and injury caused to Ms McKeown by events including her inappropriate suspension and dismissal,” the spokesman told the BBC.

“This whole episode has placed Ms McKeown under huge personal and professional pressure, and whilst she remains CEO of Sport NI since returning to her position in July 2017, this acknowledgement ends an exceptionally difficult period for her.”

The statement did not disclose whether the settlement of the dispute involved financial compensation. Stormont’s Department for Communities, which is responsible for Sport NI, said it welcomed the settlement of the dispute but added that it would be “inappropriate” to provide further comment on the matter as Sport NI staff are employed by the board of Sport NI. 

Confirming the settlement of the case, a spokesperson for Sport NI said the organisation would not be releasing a statement adding that, “Sport NI do not comment on personnel matters.”