UL inquiry reveals over €1.7m severance deal for staff

The review found UL’s severance packages to be in breach of public pay guidelines

A review of the University of Limerick (UL) has been critical of the college management’s use of severance payments, which have been revealed to be worth over €1.7 million, and its treatment of staff.

The review found that “management of the severances, the events leading to them, and the communication of their facts to the relevant stakeholders was confusing”.

Dr Richard Thorn, president emeritus of the Institute of Technology, Sligo, was appointed six months ago to investigate allegations against the university, after UL initially rejected calls to allow the inquiry to take place. Concerns over the university’s irregular financial practises were first raised by three whistleblowers within the university in 2012, and UL has faced criticism regarding these practices since then.  

The review found UL’s severance packages to be in breach of public pay guidelines. The Department of Education was not informed of them and they were not approved by UL’s governing authority.

Former UL president Professor Don Barry confirmed that the decision to engage in the severance agreements was an executive one.

The report found that the number of severances was several times more than at any other college in Ireland. Additionally, it found that a hostile work environment existed in UL’s accounts payable office, where two whistleblowers had been the subject of prior complaints.

10 recommendations to be implemented by the university were outlined in the report, which covers events between 2006 and 2017, made These include a need to account for all severance packages.

Leona O’Callaghan, previously in charge of verifying expense claims at UL’s finance department, has been suspended for more than two years along with other members of the finance department following whistleblowing attempts.

Speaking to the Irish Times in 2016, O’Callaghan noted that some senior staff received payment for journeys between their home and the university while others did not, along with other disproportionate compensations. .

Dr Des Fitzgerald, UL’s recently appointed president, has noted his concerns for how the university has “treated some of its people in the past”. He has said that UL will respond swiftly to the allegations and reforms are already underway.

UL has been called upon to submit an account that is “comprehensive and accurate” of the circumstances surrounding the agreed severances. The deadline for the response is November 24, at which point the HEA will determine what further action is necessary.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.