Thursday, May 25, 2017

The new President of University of Limerick, Dr Des Fitzgerald, has said last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme on governance at Irish universities raises issues “of grave concern”. He has already called for “a thorough, prompt and wholly independent review” and, in the weeks since his appointment, has taken a series of actions to address governance failures at the university. Furthermore, Dr Fitzgerald is very concerned that UL would have been anything less than fully transparent in its dealings with the Public Accounts Committee and intends to ensure the university’s full cooperation with the PAC as it fulfils its vital role in assuring accountability and transparency in public bodies.

On his first morning in the office of President of UL, Dr Des Fitzgerald wrote to the Minister for Education and Skills requesting that his Department conduct a wholly independent review of governance matters at University of Limerick.

On the same day, the new President of the university commissioned a comprehensive review of the senior management model at University of Limerick on the basis that the existing structure is not appropriate to sustain and develop such a large organisation.

Earlier this week, Dr Fitzgerald appointed Professor Mary O’Sullivan to carry out a separate, wide-ranging examination of the university’s governance. As Strategic Advisor to the President on Institutional Governance Professor O’Sullivan’s remit includes a root and branch examination of HR, finance and governance at the university.

Combined, these three initiatives by the new President of UL demonstrate that the university is now proactively seeking to resolve the numerous governance issues raised by former and current members of staff, RTÉ Primetime Investigates on Thursday night, and previously at the Public Accounts Committee. These actions also seek to address the underlying structural environment from which these governance issues arose so that UL can operate upon appropriate foundations in future.     

Dr Des Fitzgerald, has said “the issues raised by RTÉ Investigates need to be resolved and resolved urgently. These failures are very serious and indicate shortfalls in the university’s governance systems and I have called for a thorough, prompt and wholly independent review. UL is an excellent academic institution with a dedicated and diligent staff. We also have a duty of care to our staff and former staff. We have a responsibility to them and to the people of Limerick and the Mid-West who fought hard to develop UL into the fine university it is today, to swiftly identify and correct any and all shortcomings within the university. I am gravely concerned by the issues outlined in Thursday’s programme. I want to assure the public as well as our staff, our students and our tens of thousands of graduates, that the genuinely disturbing issues that have rightly been raised about governance in UL will be addressed as an absolute priority and appropriate actions taken.  

President Fitzgerald also reiterated his welcome for the appointment by the Department of Education and Skills of Dr Richard Thorn to lead the independent review of governance at UL. Dr Fitzgerald said, “UL will support and facilitate Dr Thorn in every way possible. Furthermore, we will put in place the right leadership structure and governance systems for UL to grow and thrive over the coming years and to do so in a way that is responsible and has real regard for all of our people whilst ensuring we build a strong academic reputation for this university”.