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‘No evidence of bullying’ at teacher college

By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent
A COLLEGE embroiled in controversy over alleged bullying and financial mismanagement has been given a clean bill of health by its own consultants.

The Christian Brothers, as trustees of Marino Institute of Education (MIE), commissioned Farrell Grant Sparks to investigate claims which arose after the resignation of Caoimhe Máirtín as president of Coláiste Mhuire.

Coláiste Mhuire is a teacher training college which forms part of the institute’s activities.

Ms Martin received a settlement from the institute after alleging she was bullied by management.

When the situation came to light last May, allegations about financial misappropriation at MIE were raised, prompting Education Minister Mary Hanafin to appoint her own consultants, who reported in August that public funding allocated for teacher training at Coláiste Mhuire was not misused.

The trustees received the report of their consultants in the past week, and it made the same findings in relation to Department of Education funds.

It is not being published for legal reasons, relating to confidentiality and commercial sensitivity, but a Christian Brothers’ statement said it concludes:

* There is no evidence of a systemic regime of bullying or harassment of either academic or administrative staff as alleged.

* There is nothing to corroborate claims that trustees, the governing body or senior MIE management operated a regime taking decisions contrary to the interests of primary teacher training at the institute.

The statement also refers to a finding that the governing body and its key committees "have largely acted in accordance" with the instrument of government at MIE. A Christian Brothers’ spokesman would not elaborate on the meaning of this phrase and refused to detail where it was found that these groups did not act in accordance with procedures.

The report suggests that the good names of the governing body, and individual members specifically, need to be restored.

Senator Joe O’Toole, who raised the issue in the Seanad last May and cited emails purportedly circulated by a governing body member as evidence of a campaign against Ms Máirtín, said he would be glad to publicly debate the findings of the report with the authors and the MIE trustees.

"The college reached settlement on substantial claims of bullying and made a six-figure payout last year, yet the report finds there was no bullying. The finding that governors acted largely in accordance with their instrument of government is confirmation that there is much to hide, there is much more to be heard and that they must have good reason to keep it secret," he said last night.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, which represents Coláiste Mhuire staff, said it was not surprising the report found no evidence of bullying and harassment when the authors failed to interview Ms Máirtín.

The union’s general secretary John Carr called for the report to be fully published so this and other shortcomings can clearly be seen.