Domain row continues as suspended CEO fights back

19 Dec 2002

After two days in the High Court, the injunction obtained by the suspended CEO of the .ie Domain Registry (IEDR), Mike Fagan, against the IEDR board of directors has been lifted by mutual consent.

A process of resolution for the dispute recommended by the court has been accepted by the parties. Fagan had sought to restrain the board from acting against his interests on foot of what he claimed was a prejudiced and prejudicial report on the management of the IEDR, commissioned by the board from KPMG. Fagan has been suspended on full pay since 2 October, a situation that will continue until the resolution process has been completed and a formal settlement obtained.

Speaking to yesterday after the High Court hearing, Fagan estimated that the process will continue for at least a couple of months and may extend beyond that, “because, as far as I’m concerned, this is a very early stage in litigation”. He insists that the KPMG ‘investigation’ was flawed in many respects, not least in that neither he nor the IEDR’s auditors were consulted. “Essentially what happens now is a fresh start and a structured process to resolve the dispute, as advised by Mr Justice Kelly and I accept that in the current circumstances that is the best way forward,” said Fagan.

From the point of view of Irish business and e-business, however, this protracted dispute resolution process will leave the IEDR without day-to-day leadership. In fact, the most senior person there currently, according to chairman Prof John Scanlan of UCD, is a temporary financial controller reporting directly to him. Of the dozen or so IEDR staff, just three have been there since the domain registry operation was spun off from UCD in 2000. In fact, that function is still officially with UCD, according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN), and just delegated to the .ie Domain Registry, which is a company limited by guarantee.

The core internet industry in Ireland, notably the Internet Service Providers Association, has been complaining about many aspects of the service for the past two years. Lack of transparency is frequently cited and the lack of any effective industry representation on the board. Complaints to government over that time have led to a current situation where a spokesperson for the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Dermot Ahern TD, has indicated strongly that the possibility of taking control of “this important national resource” – the .ie domain and its administration – is “under active and serious consideration at this time.” The Minister has powers under the E-Commerce Act, 2000 to take such action. It is understood that direct control by the Department is not envisaged, but a more representative and inclusive authority could be set up on a statutory basis.

By Leslie Faughnan