Whistleblower vet awarded £1.25m pay-out and apology from DAERA

A former government vet from the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs has received a £1.25m settlement and an apology.

Last year, Dr Tamara Bronckaers won a landmark action against DAERA relating to serious breaches of animal welfare and traceability within the meat supply chain.

An industrial tribunal found she had been constructively dismissed.

It's the largest ever settlement of it's type in Northern Ireland.

Dr Tamara Bronckaeras said the past few years have been "extremely harrowing."

"I can move on in the knowledge that I did what was right, and I now have a long-waited and justified apology from the Department."

“I strongly believed that the Department was failing in its duty to protect animal welfare and therefore I couldn’t continue doing a job that I wasn’t being allowed to carry out ethically. I couldn’t sit back and watch these breaches persist.”

During the case, Tamara Bronckaers made two arguments in relation to legislative failures including that some Livestock Market Operators were not adhering to their statutory duties and responsibilities, and that Department officials were aware of this and failed to adhere to their responsibilities to enforce the relevant legislation.

Dr Bronckaers said failures involved deleting cattle moves under the Cattle Identification (Notice of Births, Deaths and Movements) Regulations (Northern Ireland 1999), alongside serious animal neglect and the movement of potentially TB infected cattle after they were purchased in a livestock market.

A statement issued by DAERA says it “unreservedly apologises” to Dr Bronckaers.

The solicitor representing Dr Bronckaers said: "The outcome is wholly justified bearing in mind the detriments she has suffered that have not only affected her career, but her family and her financial situation.

“I’m relieved for Dr Bronckaers that the result of the case has vindicated her instruction of McCartan Turkington Breen. However, this is bittersweet in the context of an employer willing to make spurious allegations against Dr Bronckaers to paint her in a negative light, and which resulted in a committed individual losing her job when she had done nothing wrong.

John McShane continued: “I am quite simply astounded by Dr Bronckaers bravery. She was willing to do what was ethically right to the detriment of herself, her family, and her standard of living in retirement. It is a choice that very few people would make as the easier path would have been to keep quiet.

“Hopefully, the outcome of this landmark case provides reassurance that at the very least, those individuals who choose to whistle blow do have protection under the law.”