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Ireland domain registry CEO resigns

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The chief executive of Ireland’s domain registry, IEDR, has resigned on the eve of a disciplinary hearing, bringing to a close 13 months of infighting at the company.

Michael Fagan and the other directors came to agreement just hours before he was due to answer questions over his running of the company. Fagan was suspended on full pay last October following an investigation by auditors KPMG into the company’s financial affairs.

Since that time, the battle between other directors of the company - closely linked to the academic institution that originally ran the .ie domain, University College Dublin - and Mike Fagan has become increasingly bitter.

That was made clear yesterday in a curt press release from IEDR which quoted the chairman Professor Sean Scalan as saying: “I am very satisfied at the outcome of this process as it achieves closure on what has been a difficult time for the company. The IEDR is now free to focus on serving the needs of the Irish Internet community.”

Previous finance director and acting chief executive David Curtin told us he saw the issue as a “distraction that is now out of the way” and that it represented a “fresh start”. Michael Fagan himself felt the same way, telling us: “I just want to get on with my life.”

Mr Fagan said however that he felt a “bit hard done by” by a “malicious and vindictive spin” put on the official press release. Neither side is keen to talk the exact discussion prior to agreement but it is widely thought that the IEDR agreed not to continue with the disciplinary hearing and pay two months’ salary in return for Mr Fagan leaving the post and withdrawing a threat to sue for unfair dismissal. The deal was far less than Mr Fagan has previously asked for.

However over the course the last year, the under-performing registry for .ie domains has sunk further. Sales of domains have fallen dramatically and cancellations have increased. Ireland remains one of the most expensive and restricted domains in the world.

Mr Fagan made enemies at IEDR by trying to reduce the influence of the University College Dublin at the company, which he felt was damaging the viability of .ie domains. UCD originally ran the domain, as many academic institutions historically did across the globe.

It is certainly true that the registration process for .ie domains remains unnecessarily complex and time-consuming. UCD and IEDR have also remained startlingly reticent in all aspects of the domain selling business. Earlier this year they had to be sued by Irish blogger and Internet consultant Antoin O'Lachtnain before they released even the most mundane of documents. The Irish business community is also known to be frustrated with the company.

But despite the IEDR's assertion that Mr Fagan’s departure would leave it “free to focus on serving the needs of the Irish Internet community”, Mr Curtin only had vague assertions over what he would do in future.

He said IEDR has already agreed to reduce its prices by the end of the year and would stick with that, and that it would focus on making the rules and procedures “less intimidating”. However, asked to provide a mission statement for his spell as chief exec, he declined, asking for “a raincheck”.

Mr Fagan, and many Internet observers believe the situation will only be resolved once the whole board is replaced, the UCD’s right to choose four of the five directors rescinded, and a more commercial management team introduced.

While the departure of Mr Fagan has brought an unpleasant and damaging episode to a close, there is still much to be done before Ireland manages to catch up with the rest of the world with regard to domain names.

One theory that the Irish government’s Ministry for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources would step in and sort out the situation appears to be no more than wishful thinking however. A spokeswoman for the ministry had never heard of IEDR and after some discussion with a senior colleague confirmed that there would be no statement regarding the fallout from the company that runs the country’s entire Internet presence. ®

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