Michael English fiddle player secretly taped band leader over employment row, WRC told

Country singer’s barrister objected strongly to recordings being played at hearing

A bandmate of country music star Michael English secretly taped him in a years-long row over employment status, the Workplace Relations Commission has been told.

The singer’s barrister said his client had no knowledge of the alleged recordings by fiddle player Matt McGranaghan – and objected strongly to their contents being aired in the musician’s unfair dismissal claim before the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr McGranaghan told the tribunal he made the recordings at a series of meetings with the star after he first raised queries about his employment status as part of Mr English’s tour band in February 2019.

He says he was ultimately “dismissed” in September 2021 after he secured a decision from the Scope section of the Department of Social Protection that he was in insurable employment – a decision the tribunal heard had since been overturned by the Social Welfare Appeals Office.


He has brought a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 against MEPC Music Ireland Ltd, a complaint denied by the firm.

During cross-examination, Declan Ryan BL, who appeared for the company, told Mr McGranaghan it “vigorously and strenuously denies that you were ever an employee”.

Presenting his own case yesterday, Mr McGranaghan said that following initial correspondence on the matter he met Mr English at the Kildare Village shopping centre on May 22nd, 2019 – and recorded it.

“If I want somebody out of the band I’ll just say ‘I’m sorry, I’m going a different direction here and you’re not part of it. I did that before,” Mr English is alleged to have said.

“I came here honestly, driving that car to say: ‘Matt, the show’s over, and everyone else who works for me ... thinks that’s what I’m doing ... I could easily pick up a fiddle player – pick up the phone and say: ‘You want a job?’ and I’d get ten who want it. I’ve got a good name in this business. I’m not difficult to work for. I’m paying the going rate. I’m 100 times busier than any other band, so I can do that.

“The camaraderie, the fun, the sessions, bang, bang, bang, that’s all gone ... I have to put on my hard hat and a cruel face and say everything else is gone and it’s strictly business,” Mr English is alleged to have said.

Mr McGrahaghan was representing himself in a hearing into his complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act against Mr English’s company, MEPC Music Ireland Ltd.

The adjudicating officer allowed him to quote sections of what Mr McGranaghan described as a transcript of a recording he made at a meeting with Mr English at Kildare Village shopping centre on May 22nd, 2019 in his submission to the tribunal in spite of strong objections from the respondent’s lawyer.

“I have concerns, particularly in view of who’s listening, that things were recorded. It’s the first my client has heard,” said Mr Ryan, adding that no mention had been made of any transcripts in the complainant’s advanced written submissions to the tribunal.

The complainant said Mr English also told him at the same meeting in May 2019 that the band’s manager, Paul Claffey, “wanted me gone”.

Mr McGranaghan told the tribunal the band leader then said of Mr Claffey: “Absolutely he does, 100 per cent he does and I’m the one who said to Paul: ‘Please can we just give this man another chance’.”

Following the shutdown of the live music industry on public health grounds, Mr McGranaghan said he asked the Department of Social Protection to examine his employment status in May 2020.

It determined in October 2020 that he was an employee, he said.

The complainant said Mr English spoke to him in summer 2021 and asked him if he was available for work later that year.

He said he refused to meet alone with Mr English and Mr Claffey at this time because the Scope decision was under review.

The complainant said that when they did meet on August 26th 2021 at a band meeting with three other musicians, he again taped the encounter.

Mr Ryan renewed his objection to the material being aired.

“The issue of becoming an employee has been brought up again. For me that’s a non-runner,” Mr English is alleged to have told the group.

“I’ve too many things going on and I’m going to continue hiring musicians the same way I’ve always done for the last 22 years. If that doesn’t suit any of ye I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know now.

Mr McGranaghan said he was “dismissed” the following month by email, with Mr English writing: “Matt, just an email to say how very much we regret your decision not to continue your services as a musician ... It is just not possible for us to make you an employee due to the nature of our business.”

“That is how I learned that I had been dismissed,” the complainant said.

Mr McGranaghan made an affirmation in advance of being cross-examined by Mr Ryan, who put it to the complainant that he had failed to make an appearance for two appeal hearings and that the Social Welfare Appeals Office had overturned the original Scope finding.

“Are you in possession of a contract or a written statement of terms and conditions,” Mr Ryan asked.

“No, I have no contract or written terms and conditions from MEPC,” Mr McGranaghan replied.

The matter was adjourned to a future date, yet to be fixed by the WRC.