The woman who has said she was pressured into resigning as president of the National Childbirth Trust last year has been re-elected to the post by the charity’s membership.
Seána Talbot, who has held various health management posts in Northern Ireland, said on social media that she was "honoured, excited and looking forward to the next five years". She was first elected as an NCT trustee in 2009 and as president in 2015.
Talbot and three others were asked to resign by the NCT leadership because they had been in post in 2012 when the charity decided to co-brand and market a cot called the Bednest. The co-branding decision was made by the subsidiary, NCT Trading, not by the main charity board.
A seven-week-old baby died in a Bednest in 2015 when her head became stuck over the half-lowered side. An inquest last December recorded a verdict of accidental death.
The inquest heard that the cot had been certified as safe by the Furniture Industry Research Association. But child development specialists gave evidence that it was dangerous and the design has since been modified.
Talbot and the others were asked to resign after the charity was advised by the PR firm Bell Pottinger that "risk of serious harm to NCT’s reputation would be significantly reduced" if it could tell the inquest they had stepped aside.
Bell Pottinger is now in administration after a scandal developed in relation to its campaign for the Gupta family in South Africa. The Public Relations and Communications Association, the industry standards body, found that the campaign was "likely to inflame racial discord".
Talbot and another trustee, Bryan Macpherson, resisted resigning, but a review of events by the former Charity Commission chief executive Andrew Hind found that they were told that if they did not go, the chair and company secretary would feel obliged to resign and other members of the Bednest incident team, including the chief executive, would consider their positions. The chair at the time was Helen Stephenson, now chief executive of the Charity Commission.
The review also confirmed that the two were told at another point by the chief executive, Nick Wilkie, that he would suspend their membership of the charity if they did not step down. This, in effect, would have removed them as trustees.
In the event there was no criticism at the inquest of the charity’s decision to co-brand the Bednest, and no negative publicity. Talbot decided to stand again as president – the president of the charity is also a trustee – earlier this year.
A campaign led by 13 local office holders, antenatal teachers and other volunteers has tried without success to persuade the leadership to reinstate the trustees, hold an independent inquiry or arrange mediation. The charity held four meetings for members to ask questions.
A spokesman for the NCT declined to release voting figures for the election of Talbot and two other new trustees. "Our annual meeting took place on 4 November, during which we welcomed Seána Talbot as NCT president and Sarah Brown and Elaine Lambe as trustees," he said.
"Some great questions were put to the board by members on the challenges of the past year and the board also heard positive feedback on the direction of the charity."
A full analysis of the recent governance dispute at the NCT will be published in Third Sector’s print edition next week.