Former president of auctioneers’ body starts WRC action after bitter row with chief executive

Co Galway auctioneer Gerry Coffey resigned last May from his role at the top of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers

The former president of the professional body for auctioneers has initiated a Workplace Relations Commission action alleging “penalisation” by the organisation, after a bitter row with the chief executive.

Co Galway auctioneer Gerry Coffey resigned last May from his role at the top of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, saying he was refused access to financial records and frozen out from key decisions.

The IPAV represents some 1,500 auctioneers, promoting professional standards for estate agents and property valuers.

Mr Coffey, whose business is based in Williamstown in Co Galway, was an unsuccessful local election candidate in Co Roscommon for Fine Gael in 2019. He is not a candidate in the local election next June.


He had clashed with IPAV chief executive Pat Davitt, claiming Mr Davitt set out to “frustrate and suppress” him. Mr Coffey said the issue centred on allegations he slammed his hand on a table in a board meeting.

In a statement issued last May, the IPAV said it received Mr Coffey’s resignation with regret but that it had come after the IPAV’s national council (board) “unanimously” upheld a complaint against him, “made by the CEO in his capacity as an employee”.

Mr Davitt said in May that he did not wish to respond to Mr Coffey’s assertions beyond what was in the IPAV’s statement.

Mr Coffey took a complaint against the IPAV in November seeking a WRC adjudication under the Protected Disclosures Act of 2014.

This law allows an employee to seek redress for an alleged contravention of the Act by an employer. According to the Act, an employer “shall not penalise or threaten penalisation against an employee, or cause or permit any other person to penalise or threaten penalisation against an employee, for having made a protected disclosure”.

Both Mr Coffey and Mr Davitt were present at the WRC on Friday for a short preliminary hearing by adjudicator Jim Dolan. No evidence was presented during the hearing.

Mr Dolan agreed to adjourn the case for about 12 weeks at IPAV’s request, with Mr Coffey’s consent.

The hearing on Friday was told a three-day hearing was required as there may be 14 or 15 witnesses, up six for Mr Coffey and up to eight for the IPAV.

Jason Murray BL, for the IPAV, said he would take instruction on whether IPAV calls an independent investigator as a witness.

Anthony Slein BL, for Mr Coffey, said he could engage with Mr Murray during the adjournment to avoid calling unnecessary witnesses.

Witnesses in attendance with Mr Coffey included Co Louth auctioneer Joanne Lavelle, former IPAV senior vice-president. She stood down last year from that IPAV role, saying she had no wish to become the next president and that IPAV governance structures lacked cohesion and accountability.

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Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times