‘Important that resolution is found’ for University of Limerick whistleblowers

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

Minister for Education Joe McHugh met with UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald

Minister for Education Joe McHugh met with UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald

THE CASE of two whistleblowers from the University of Limerick finance department was raised by the UL president during a private meeting with the Minister for Education.

The whistleblowers, known as Persons B and C, who raised issues about financial practices at the university more than three years ago, have yet to return to return to work despite their suspension being first lifted in November 2017.

“I know that my officials are working with the college to see if we can find a solution,” Minister for Education Joe McHugh told the Limerick Leader while on a visit to Limerick. 

“I did meet with the UL president (Dr Des Fitzgerald) on Friday morning and we had a conversation,” he added. “In fact, the president raised it with me.

“I’m a big believer in getting people around a table and getting people to figure it out. I do think it is important that a resolution is found for these two people. 

“I’d be happy to meet with them once this is resolved. I don’t want to be part of the conversation now because I am respecting the employee, employer circle,” said the minister. 

Meanwhile, the Dáil has heard that the Department of Education is “willing to assist the university” in looking for ways to “facilitate a return to the workplace of the two individuals in question”. 

During a topical debate, local Fianna Fáil Deputy Willie O’Dea raised the “plight” of the two staff members. “These are dedicated, hard-working and courageous women who performed their duties in an exemplary manner.

“One might well ask what nefarious crime they committed to find themselves in this unfortunate situation,” asked the deputy. 

“They blew the whistle on blatant wrongdoing and exposed wasteful, wrongful and wanton expenditure of taxpayers’ money,” Deputy O’Dea added. 

“They have been vindicated by a number of independent reports, they have been vindicated by the Comptroller and Auditor General and, importantly and perhaps astonishingly, they have been vindicated by their employer.” 

Despite this, Persons B and C remain “reliant on the tender mercies of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection”, Deputy O’Dea added. 

The university has requested the assistance of the Department of Education in resolving this case, Minister McHugh said in response.

“My Department is willing to assist the university in exploring potential opportunities to facilitate a return to the workplace of the two individuals in question,” Minister McHugh said.

“I am confident that when the president and my officials sit down and the two individuals at the heart of the issue, there will be opportunities presented to them to find a solution.