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MELANIE' ANIE'S REVENGE; VERWOERD SACKING GERRY LOVE FIGHTS BACK ?Revealed: disgraceful email that sacked her.. ?She never asked for a cent of Unicef 's money.

Byline: SAMUEL HAMILTON

THIS is the disgraceful letter sent by email that shows the horrific pressure heartbroken Melanie Verwoerd was put under by Unicef bosses.

Just one month before she was sensationally sacked, this email shows charity fat cats attacked her over her relationship with tragic Gerry Ryan and accused her of being "distracted" by the Press.

But last night furious Melanie came back fighting and vowed - I'll see you in court.

In a sensational attack she branded the statement by the charity's board as "misleading".

The mum-of-two insists that despite Ryan's death in April 2010 after taking cocaine, her work at Unicef was always her first priority. And yesterday, the 43-year-old hit back at her critics.

She revealed: l She WAS sacked by email, despite Unicef claiming otherwise. l She never asked for a single cent from the children's charity, and just wanted to continue in her job.

l She was told by bosses to shut her mouth and never to speak about Gerry in public again - claiming it was "extremely damaging" to the organisation. l And she will take the charity to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, claiming she was unfairly dismissed from the job she was "performing well" in.

Last night Unicef said it did not sack Melanie because of her relationship with Gerry. A statement said: "If Ms Verwoerd pursues a case through the Employment Appeals Tribunal then Unicef Ireland will defend it's decision at the Tribunal."

At the end of last year, Melanie says the board agreed the approach for the organisation's work during 2011 - at which there was no mention of her relationship with Gerry Ryan.

But on June 10, after a Unicef trip to Haiti with golfer Rory McIlroy, she was called by chairman Paul Connolly to a meeting in the Burlington Hotel's bar.

At this meeting, Melanie was told her relationship with the late broadcaster was "damaging Unicef". This is despite the fact she was in charge when the charity's income doubled during 2010.

She was also warned to keep her mouth shut and never speak to the media again - a "fundamental change" in her role with the charity.

She said: "Paul Connolly asked to meet me in the bar of the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. It was at this meeting that Mr Connolly raised, for the first time, concerns regarding the media interest in my relationship with the late Gerry Ryan.

"Mr Connolly suggested that this interest was damaging Unicef. I questioned this assertion citing the record donation figures, public awareness levels, which had been tested, and the fact that not one complaint was received by the office of Unicef in Dublin.

"I believe that it should also be noted that, over the course of seven days, more than 40 articles appeared in the Irish media covering the report launch and Rory McIlroy's visit to Haiti.

"To my knowledge only two of these articles referred to my relationship with Gerry Ryan and, where they did, the details of the mental health report were promoted to exceptionally promi-nent positions in the newspaper. At this meeting Mr Connolly suggested that I should 'go dark' and not speak to the media on behalf of Unicef Ireland or represent Unicef Ireland at public events.

"I told Mr Connolly that I believed that this would constitute a fundamental change to my job description and would raise confusion that would be detrimental to the operation of the charity. I emphasised that my work and the protection of Unicef had always been my top priority and whilst I had attempted to keep my personal profile as low as possible, no one can control how the media goes about its business."

Her relationship with Gerry Ryan was brought up next at a meeting of the Unicef board on June 20, where she agreed to "keep my personal profile as low as possible".

The board includes Charlie Haughey's former spindoctor PJ Mara and his one-time solicitor Ivor Fitzpatrick. Another member is Bank of Ireland executive Tom Hayes.

Four days later, Melanie was sent a letter and told to attend a meeting with Paul Connolly and PJ Mara on June 30 after she returned from a planned trip home to Zimbabwe. The letter told her: "Your profile has become inextricably linked to your relationship with the later Gerry Ryan, the circumstances of his death, and subsequent disputes with his family, however accurate or not reports may be."

Melanie then received an email two weeks later, telling her she had been sacked from Unicef, after bosses didn't have the guts to tell her to her face.

They told her she was being given a cheque for two years' pay, but Melanie says she didn't want the money - she just wanted her job back.

And now Melanie is now taking the charity to the Employment Appeals Tribunal after they refused to back down. She said: "On the evening of July 15 I received an email terminating my employment as Executive Director of Unicef Ireland... In the termination letter it was indicated that the board had authorised an ex-gratia payment equivalent to two years' salary.

"My solicitor immediately wrote back to the board requesting them to withdraw what we believed to be an 'unlawful termination' and again requested the board to outline all reasonable steps it wanted me to take to deal with its concerns.

"The board of Unicef Ireland responded saying that they would not withdraw the termination and on July 22 sent a cheque to my solicitor.

"It is important to note that the money was sent completely unilaterally and without any conditions attached. There was no settlement.

"I did not want money. My preference was always to keep my job, a job I believed that I was performing well."

Melanie urged people to continue to donate to Unicef.

She said: "There are millions of children who are in vitally urgent need of life-saving interventions in East Africa right now.

"All I wanted, was to be allowed to continue to do my job as Executive Director of Unicef Ireland in order to be able to lead a team of highly skilled and professional fundraisers to encourage the donations in Ireland that would save tens of thousands of lives of children who are starving to death in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

"This is where the energy and, indeed, the money of Unicef should be spent. I recognise that some members of the public, after the events of this week, may feel reluctant to donate to Unicef Ireland.

"I ask them to please continue to do so particularly given the current crisis. Unicef is an incredible organisation that does the most important work for children in over 150 countries all over the world.

"Children should not be affected because of the actions and what I believe to be the personal agendas of a small number of people in Ireland.

"I will reluctantly take my case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

"This may take some time but I trust and hope that the people of Ireland, who have always been incredibly generous, will support the children in the Horn of Africa who need our help now."

CAPTION(S):

Tragic lover... Melanie with Gerry Shocked... Melanie is taking Unicef to court Resting place... Gerry's grave Field trip... Melanie with Unicef ambassador Donncha O'Callaghan visit Zimbabwe Fighting back... Melanie Verwoerd was sacked ny email from Unicef
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Jul 31, 2011
Words:1228
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