College can probe plagiarism claims itself, says body

The statutory body which lecturers want to investigate a plagiarism claim against their college’s chairman says Institute of Technology Tralee has proper procedures to do so itself.

In a letter to ITT registrar, Michael Hall, a month ago, 26 staff claimed that governing body chairman, Flan Garvey, extensively plagiarised sources in his 2008 master’s dissertation at the college.

The college has made no comment on the issue and Mr Garvey has not made any statement in response to the claims. He did not respond to several messages this week, offering him the opportunity to respond.

The academics at ITT had asked that their claims be referred to Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) because of Mr Garvey’s role as chairman of the college board. They said an appeals committee to which the outcome of a plagiarism investigation can be appealed, includes the chairman or his nominee, so normal procedures could not be followed.

However, the QQI told the Irish Examiner it was satisfied that ITT has procedures in place to manage the investigation without conflict of interest.

“There’s an investigation going on at the moment by IT Tralee. There are standard procedures in place for any kind of conflict of interest, that would be a standard requirement in any college,” said a QQI spokesperson.

“[ITT] notified us there was a complaint of plagiarism. QQI did advise with regard to independent expert advice they would need to assist in that regard.”

QQI has legal powers to set up a review of quality assurance procedures at any college where appropriate. However, the spokesperson said this would arise where there are issues around general systems, rather than individual complaints or internal investigations.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he was aware of the matter and that 26 academics was a lot of people: “An accusation of plagiarism is a fairly strong accusation in terms of academic excellence and standards and it is first and foremost a matter for QQI. I would hope they would be able to move on it as quickly as possible.”

Mr Garvey, a Fianna Fáil member of Clare County Council until 2009 and former mayor of Clare, wrote his dissertation on the history of his local parish of Inagh. The allegations include claims that three chapters of the 300-page research document are “verbatim copies of uncited or misleadingly cited works”.

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