The President of University of Limerick, Dr Des Fitzgerald, is to tender his resignation over personal concerns the coronavirus pandemic would “limit” his ability to fully perform the role, going forward.
The retired cardiologist, who turns 67 in October, announced his intention today to step down as UL President later this year.
The university’s Governing Authority will commence an international recruitment process to select his replacement.
Dr Fitzgerald said that he had taken the decision to resign in the context of Covid-19.
A source close to the UL President said Dr Fitzgerald made the decision due to his own personal concerns, in the context of the virus, given that he is regarded as being in the vulnerable age category for Covid-19, and given that the nature of the president’s role involves interacting with large groups of people.
There are approximately 17,000 students and staff attending UL, which remains on lockdown ahead of plans to begin reopening in September.
In a letter to the UL Chancellor, and former Tánaiste, Mary Harney, Dr, Fitzgerald wrote: “Unfortunately this virus will directly impact my ability to serve the university and limit my ability to fully engage once we get our community back onto the campus.”
Speaking today, Dr Fitzgerald said that he had been privileged to lead UL, a role he took up three years ago, which saw him oversee plans to establish a UL campus in Limerick city centre, away from its main campus in Castletroy.
One of his big first tasks in the role as President was to address allegations surrounding UL’s finance, human resources, and governance policies, after malpractice claims were raised by a number of whistleblowers who had been suspended before he took up the role in May 2017.
Dr. Fitzgerald said: “I believe we have also made important progress on tackling many of the controversial issues which predated my appointment and which were set out in the Thorn Report, the Deloitte Internal Audit and the report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG). I am glad that during my period in office most of the issues detailed in the above reports have been dealt with and their recommendations implemented.”
Paying tribute, Mary Harney, said Dr Fitzgerald has been “a transformational President”.
“I regret that he has had to take this decision as a result of Covid-19,” she added.
Dr Fitzgerald has led UL’s response to Covid-19, and oversaw the erection of a field hospital on the grounds of the university.
He is a medical graduate of UCD, and trained and worked as a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University in the United States of America before returning to Ireland where he was in practice for 27 years.
A Fellow of the American Heart Association and the European Society of Cardiology, Dr Fitzgerald has also has served on the boards of the Mater Misericordiae and St. Vincent’s University Hospitals in Dublin as well as the University of Limerick Hospital Group, and was chairman of the Health Research Board.