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GMIT plagiarism probe costs under Dáil review

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The excessive cost of the independent investigation into plagiarism at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) was raised at the latest sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Dáil Éireann.

PAC Chairman, John McGuinness queried secretary general of the Department of Education, Seán Ó Foghlú, and Tom Boland, chief executive officer of the Higher Education Authority, why they had not responded to questions raised by Galway East Fianna Fáil TD, Colm Keaveney.

The cost to the taxpayer of the external investigation, which lasted over two years, is close-on €500,000. The figure includes legal fees and pay rates of €187.58 per hour, at a daily rate of no more than €1,500, for the independent investigators.

Deputy Keaveney last year wrote to PAC, urging it to investigate the waste of public money on this investigation.

The letter said there are two issues that Deputy Keaveney believes warrant public oversight by the PAC: the prudential spending of public monies in the context of the inquiry itself; and that academic standards are not being sufficiently adhered to within a third level body in receipt of large amounts of public money.

“I believe that both of these issues are deserving of investigation by the Committee of Public Accounts. The Minister for Education in his response to me in the Dáil seems to indicate that he is of the same mind in this regard,” said Deputy Keaveney in his letter to PAC at the time.

This month, Deputy McGuinness sought an update, from Mr Ó Foghlú and Mr Boland, who faced questioning at the committee on a wide range of education issues relating to third level.

When Mr McGuinness asked the witness to name institutes where there are issues with governance, Mr Boland name-checked Letterkenny, Tralee, and Cork. He added: “There were issues to do with examinations and an inquiry was being conducted in GMIT.”

Later in the hearing, Mr Ó Foghlú was asked to clarify why he had not updated PAC on the questions raised by Deputy Keaveney.

Mr Ó Foghlú said he had updated the committee last May.

“Yes, but that was May 15, 2014 and there were a number of questions to be answered. The representatives might reflect on that after the meeting. Those questions were not answered,” said Deputy McGuinness.

Mr Ó Foghlú agreed he would update the committee again on the situation at GMIT once the HEA receives an update from the college following a meeting of its Governing Body.

The Governing Body met last week.

The Public Accounts Committee is best known for its work on the DIRT inquiry. It is an Oireachtas body set up to ensure there is accountability and transparency in the way Government agencies allocate, spend and manage their finances.

Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised

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Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years

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Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Student leader’s stalker hell

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Róisín Nic Lochlainn

The President of NUI Galway Students’ Union has spoken out about her terrifying harassment ordeal at the hands of a 17-year-old stalker who left her fearing for her safety.

Róisín Nic Lochlainn told the Connacht Tribune that she felt ‘such relief’ when the news came out last week that the young man who spent months putting her through hell online had been brought before the courts in Dublin for a similar campaign of harassment against a BBC NI journalist.

The 17-year-old from Malahide, Co Dublin, who cannot be named because of his age, pleaded guilty to the harassment of reporter Aileen Moynagh at Dublin Children’s Court last week.

It transpired he had used up to 40 aliases to send Ms Moynagh abusive and threatening messages on various social media platforms and by email. It is understood that the teen has a compulsive disorder and Asperger’s.

Ms Nic Lochlainn said she had sleepless nights and sought the help of Gardaí and the university’s chaplaincy service amid a slew of threats directed at her over much of 2020.

“It was actually terrifying. I know it might sound stupid, but I would check the bathroom in my room every night before going to bed. It was keeping me up at night,” she said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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