Former principal of Cork school used false information for grants to pay for extra teachers

Eileen O'Connor (38) was principal of Gaelscoil Mhuscraí in Blarney, Co Cork, when she made the applications for capitation grants to which the school was not entitled.

Former principal of Cork school used false information for grants to pay for extra teachers

A former principal who furnished false information to get €244,000 in grants for her school should not be permitted to apply for any promotional post for the next 10 years, the High Court has found.

Eileen O'Connor (38) was principal of Gaelscoil Mhuscraí in Blarney, Co Cork, when she made the applications for capitation grants to which the school was not entitled to the Department of Education and Skills.

It involved overstating the numbers of pupils so that the school would get extra capitation grants of €197 per child and ancillary services grants of €147.

She did not benefit personally from the fraud, a court heard.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland today declined to confirm a recommendation of the teachers' regulatory body that she be restricted from applying for promotional posts for 15 years but said Ms O'Connor should instead be restricted for 10 years.

In 2017 at the Circuit Criminal Court, Ms O'Connor, under the name Aileen Ní Cheallaigh, of Mill Road, Midleton, Co Cork, was given a one-year suspended jail sentence after she admitted five charges of making use of a document required for accounting purposes that she knew as misleading, false or deceptive.

Money used for accommodation and extra teachers

The court heard the offences occurred between 2005 and 2009 and she used the money for provision of accommodation and payment of extra teachers at the school. Some €69,000 had been recouped at the time of the court case in 2017 from deductions to school grant payments.

Last December, the Teaching Council recommended that a condition be attached to her registration requiring that she not apply for a promotional post, including principal, deputy or assistant principal, for the next 15 years.

That recommendation was brought before the High Court today when JP McDowell, solicitor for the Teaching Council, that she has since returned to work as a teacher but not as a principal.

The Council panel which examined her case found she had admitted her wrongdoing and there were other significant mitigating features but the panel was less impressed with the mitigation claims that she was young and inexperienced and doing the best for the school, Mr McDowell said.

Ms Justice Hyland was concerned the Council had sought a 15-year promotions restriction in circumstances where Mr O'Connor had not applied for any such position for the last nine years.

The Council panel, in making its recommendation, had not taken that nine years into account when making its decision, she said.

She was therefore refusing to confirm the Council's decision but said it will have to reconsider its decision having regard to that period when Ms O'Connor did not apply for a promotional post or act in a position of responsibility.

The judge also refused a request in a letter from her union, the INTO, that her name not be published in reports of the court hearing. The judge said the legal test for this had not been met.

Ms O'Connor was not in court or represented.

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