University of Limerick makes €150k settlement to whistleblowers

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

University of Limerick makes €150k settlement to whistleblowers

Prof Des Fitzgerald said it was 'priority' to begin process of 'fixing' issue

THE UNIVERSITY of Limerick has paid out approximately €150,000 in a settlement with three whistleblowers who had highlighted serious issues regarding human resources, governance and finance. 

This follows mediation talks at UL over long-running staff issues, including payment of expenses. 

According to a report in the Irish Times, the overall settlement is likely to be in the region of €150,000, as one of the pay-outs is understood to be between €50,000 to €60,000. 

Kieran Mulvey, the mediator appoint by the university, recommended that payment be made to whistleblower Leona O’Callaghan, whose allegations surrounding expenses were vindicated. 

Two other whistleblowers—known as B and C—have had their two-and-a-half year suspensions lifted. 

The whistleblowers’ story was first published in the Limerick Leader in September 2015, and has prompted a number of reports examining the matter. 

Last November’s Thorn report was sharply critical of HR and management practices at UL and Dr Fitzgerald pledged then to implement all of its recommendations in full. Changes to UL’s management structure and governing authority have already been introduced.

However, Persons B and C were unhappy that the Thorn report contained no negative findings about how their own cases were handled. Writing to the PAC, they accused UL of seeking to create the impression that all of their problems arose from “interpersonal difficulties”.

They also stated that they were “shocked” by the finding of the report’s author, Richard Thorn, that they were “unwise” to pursue a garda complaint against a work colleague who, they allege, threatened them at a Christmas party in 2014.

In an interview with the Irish Times, UL president Prof Des Fitzgerald said his focus, since being appointed to the position, was dealing with the controversy. 

“My priority was to try to find out what happened, begin the process of fixing it and making sure we dealt with people who had grievances in a systematic way,” he said, adding that there have been changes “to ensure that it never happens again”.