Brendan Ogle Wife A Facebook Post Because Of Concerns About “Trolling”

Brendan Ogle has brought his workplace relations dispute against Unite trade union to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), alleging discrimination and mistreatment upon returning from cancer treatment to work. His case raises important issues about how unions respond when employees return after experiencing serious illnesses; as well as potential ramifications on workplace relations and employee rights more broadly.

Allegations of Exclusion

Mandy La Combre, Brendan Ogle’s wife, took to social media in an outrage against Unite union for its treatment upon his return from cancer treatment and withdrawal of critical roles and communications within the union despite recovery. La Combre described Brendan Ogle as significantly weakened and traumatized from both his illness and subsequent treatment by his employer, Unite.

Her Facebook post intended to counter any negative commentary from water workers upset with Ogle’s silence on an industrial agreement generated significant discussion on social media. La Combre maintained that Ogle was unfairly targeted and excluded, suffering reduced role and being left out of essential meetings and communications; she felt this exclusion was both unexpected and inappropriate coming from a union which should support its members, particularly those returning from serious illness.

Social Media Backlash

La Comber’s post was in response to social media commentary questioning Ogle’s silence over a contentious deal regarding the transfer of undertakings. When workers protested the absence of balloting in its implementation, this triggered comments such as: “Where’s Ogle?” and “Ogle has gone quiet.” These were similar to trolling incidents related to the Apollo House occupation by housing activists that motivated La Combre to address it publicly.

La Combre took to Facebook to voice her dissatisfaction with Unite, saying “What I have sadly come to learn is that [Unite] don’t appear as happy as I am about his recovery.” She accused them of marginalizing him through events and communications that exclude him, such as meetings.

Response and Legal Proceedings by the Union.

Situation escalated further when Tony Woodhouse, former chairman of Unite, addressed Ogle’s allegations during a trade union conference in Malahide, County Dublin. Woodhouse commented on social media posts suggesting returning officers weren’t being properly treated by Unite; his words led Ogle to file legal action alleging defamation against Woodhouse.

Mark Harty SC of the union asserted that this conflict arose from La Combre’s Facebook post being published by Irish Examiner. Under cross examination, Harty suggested it could serve as an “excessive distraction,” potentially impeding efforts underway to settle issues related to Ogle’s return to work. La Combre rejected any notion of any genuine resolution process taking place at that time.

Complaint of Discrimination (PDF)

Ogle filed his claim before the WRC for discrimination related to employment access, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, victimization and harassment following his return to work in 2022 after fighting an “extremely aggressive form” of cancer. This case highlights some of the difficulties employees encounter returning after serious illness as well as employers and unions’ roles in creating an inclusive workplace environment.

Ogle’s legal team attempted to call Unite general secretary Sharon Graham as a witness, but adjudicating officer Elizabeth Spelman denied this request as Graham did not possess information pertinent to this inquiry, thus rejecting her as an option for questioning.

Testimony and Ongoing Proceedings

As proceedings continue, the WRC heard testimony from Ogle’s former line manager Jackie Pollock which provided further insights into Unite’s internal workings and Ogle’s treatment upon returning to work. This case highlights the significance of providing employees recovering from serious illnesses with appropriate support, while organizations failing to adhere to such standards could face severe repercussions.


The outcome of this case could have far-reaching ramifications for how trade unions and other organizations manage the return to work of employees who have undergone serious medical treatments, and raises broader issues about workplace culture, support mechanisms, and the rights of future employees who find themselves in similar circumstances.

Brendan Ogle’s lawsuit against Unite serves as a powerful reminder of the necessity of supportive workplace practices for employees recovering from serious illnesses. As WRC proceedings unfold, attention remains focused on making sure organizations fulfill their responsibilities to provide fair and inclusive treatment, regardless of an employee’s health challenges. Its resolution could set a precedent for how unions and other employers handle similar situations in future; emphasizing compassion, fairness and adherence to employment rights.

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