A chairman of the Institute of Technology Tralee has been accused by 26 staff of plagiarising sections of a thesis.
Former Fianna Fail councillor Flan Garvey received a master of arts degree for the thesis in 2008.
However last night the third-level college refused to comment on the allegations by some lecturers that the chair of their governing body cheated on his thesis to get his degree from their institute.
Mr Garvey was previously the subject of controversy when the Irish Independent revealed he used, legitimately, €2,800 of his expenses from Clare County Council to pay for the master's degree.
Speaking in 2008, Mr Garvey said: "I wasn't charging the council. . . I was charging it from my allowance. Every councillor is entitled to expenses and if I don't spend it on this [the degree], I would spend it otherwise."
Mr Garvey – a retired school teacher from Inagh, Co Clare, currently sits on an examinations and assessment appeals committee at the Tralee institute, which deliberates on issues such as plagiarism by students.
Repeated attempts by the Irish Independent to contact him by telephone yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.
Last night, a spokesperson for ITT said, "the institute has no comment to make" on the controversy.
After completing the dissertation in 2008 – entitled 'A study of the Saiocht of a parish in County Clare' – he was presented with his master's by the then president of the Tralee institute, Michael Carmody in 2008.
It is understood that the writing of the dissertation had been supervised by a senior academic.
It is understood that the allegations have only come to light in recent weeks and the 26 lecturers and staff all signed their names in a two-page letter to the registrar of the institute, Dr Michael Hall last month asking him to refer the issue for external investigation.
The staff requested the registrar to refer the matter to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority Ireland (QQI) to establish an independent panel to investigate the matter as the lecturers claims normal internal procedure in Tralee cannot be followed.
"Indeed, it is our belief that having the chairman of the governing body enrolled as a student in the institute in the first place represented an unprecedented conflict of interest," the letter says.
The lecturers say that no staff – academic or management – should be involved in the investigation.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that the QQI has since referred the matter back to Tralee.
In a statement issued, the QQI acknowledged it was informed by an institute of technology that allegations of plagiarism had been made against a graduate of the Institute of Technology Tralee.
"There are well established procedures in place in all Irish higher education institutions for investigating these matters, which are a matter for the statutory academic council of the higher education institution, in the first instance," a spokesperson said.
The Tralee lecturers allege Mr Garvey's dissertation "contains large sections of text which are identical to earlier published sources, either uncited or cited in a manner that suggests that Mr Garvey is their author".
In one example, the staff claim 14 pages of the dissertation are identical to a book which was published in 1965 about Mr Garvey's native parish – Inagh.
Mr Garvey has a bachelor of arts and a higher diploma in education and began teaching in 1963.
He was elected three times to Clare county council as a Fianna Fail councillor in the local elections of 1991, 1999 and 2004. and was also involved with the vocational educational committee in Clare.
He was elected as chair of the governing body of the Institute of Technology in Tralee in February 2003.
He served as mayor of his native county from July 2006 to June 2007 and travelled across the globe to Melbourne, Nova Scotia, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Phoenix, Arizona.