Union boss bypasses Dublin firm already on retainer to appoint ‘world’s biggest law firm’ against ‘disgustingly’ treated Irish union legend
Sharon Graham and Unite have bypassed the Dublin legal firm paid a retainer by the union, in order to employ lawyers Dentons to defend the defamation lawsuit brought against them and Graham ally Tony Woodhouse by Irish union legend Brendan Ogle.
Unite normally uses – and has for some three decades, according to union insiders – Dublin firm Turner Hamilton, to whom it pays a retainer for its services.
Dentons, which describes itself as ‘the world’s largest law firm’ is also one of the biggest earners in the global legal industry, reporting annual revenues of almost three billion dollars.
An Irish Unite figure told Skwawkbox:
Turners are Unite’s solicitor in Dublin on every legal action and has been since ATGWU days. Now the management has gone over the head of their normal firm that they pay a retainer and who takes all member cases and hired one of the most expensive legal firms worldwide to fund this case out of members’ subs.
Ogle, a key figure in the Irish union movement for decades, has begun legal action against Unite, general secretary Sharon Graham and her ally Tony Woodhouse for allegedly defaming him at two separate Irish venues in autumn last year and the spring of this year.
The union’s ‘disgusting’ abuse toward Ogle on his return from cancer treatment, after he made whistleblower’s ‘protected disclosures’ about the union’s adherence to covid protocols at the height of the pandemic, triggered widespread outrage among grassroots members, politicians and community groups – anger so serious that an entire sector branch threatened to disaffiliate entirely from Unite, the well-known ‘Right2Water’ campaign said it will no longer work with Unite, Unite’s Community section in Ireland condemned the ‘injustice inflicted’ on him and members picketed general secretary Sharon Graham’s long-delayed visit to Dublin last month.
The abuse also caused Ogle to lodge a tribunal complaint with the Workplace Relations Commission – Ireland’s binding statutory body under its Workplace Relations Act.
Sharon Graham’s tenure at Unite has been marked by a string of other serious allegations, which neither she nor the union has ever denied – of abuse, cover-up and failure to protect women:
- that she attempted to have evidence destroyed in bullying and misogyny complaints about her husband, whom she now employs in her office despite a final warning from the union for his behaviour
- after her supporters failed in their bid to take control of the Unite executive despite ‘dark money’ spending on advertising, ineglible and racist members being allowed to stand and the alleged use of paid organisers in and following the exec election campaign, her faction has resorted to Starmerite tactics to try to discredit the executive members’ election of a new left-wing union chair and both vice-chairs, as well as the vital Finance and General Purpose Committee
In addition, she has been exposed behind the union’s decision to ban showings in Unite’s buildings of a film exposing racism, smears, rigging and abuse by the Labour right and has appeared to grow increasingly cosy with red-Tory Labour ‘leader’ Keir Starmer, despite Starmer’s lies, his contempt for democracy, his u-turns on promises to Unite members and his regime’s repeated blocking of Unite-backed parliamentary candidates.
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