Five individuals are occupying the Department of Education and Skills’ head office as part of a protest against the non-intervention in allegations of misconduct at the University of Limerick (UL). According to the Irish Times, at least three of the protestors worked for the university’s financial division. The group are looking for an independent inquiry into the allegations which date back to 2015, when 13 complaints relating to staff discontent were made.
Leona O’Callaghan, one of the protesters, gave an assurance that she will not leave the department’s head office until a meeting is secured with Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton. She stated: “We’ve looked for a meeting with the department and the Minister for well over a year, but we feel we’ve been ignored and dismissed.” Leona continued, “we’re calling on the Minister to establish a wider investigation into these issues. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) also wants one. UL is resisting this. Now, the ball is in the Minister’s court.”
Mr. Tom Boland, who was the Chief Executive of the HEA when the allegations were first brought before the authority, noted that the HEA were obliged to deal with the allegations with the “greatest seriousness and respond to them fully”. He added that the situation should be “dealt with comprehensively and conclusively”.
In February 2016, the HEA published a report commissioned from the independent auditors Mazars following the allegations of financial misconduct. It outlines recommendations for the college to improve their human resource practice and finances. Though the HEA do not have the judicial power to initiate an inquiry, they requested that the university conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations. This request was declined.
In October of last year, a representative of the college said that two claims were put before the Workplace Relations Commission. This was following an incident in which employees were suspended following allegations they had made of misconduct within the college.