Row breaks out in college as Ahearne runs for new chair
Published 27/03/2011 | 05:00
A major academic row involving former government adviser Dr Alan Ahearne has erupted at NUI Galway over plans to appoint him to a senior position.
Dr Ahearne, who spent two years as special counsel to former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, is one of a number of candidates in the running for a new professorship within the Economics Department.
Such appointments are rare and competition is always fierce, and Dr Ahearne's association with the failed Fianna Fail/Green government is now being used by some to try and prevent him from being considered.
One source described matters as "extremely delicate" but acknowledged the considerable disquiet over Dr Ahearne's position since his return from his stint in Merrion Street.
some within the college feel Dr Ahearne is being unfairly "lined up" by certain forces within the college to take the position, given his high profile. "Some feel he is politically toxic, but certainly there is a feeling that some are trying to capitalise on his star quality," said the source.
Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway, said that any position in Galway would be filled with rigorous and long-standing procedures.
"I have heard the rumours, too, but some political people don't like him and are trying to adversely affect a process, but I can assure you, as long as I am here, that won't happen. This will be done properly and totally above board," he said.
The proposed appointment is a topic of hot debate among the academics, with some questioning his suitability to become a professor, but his supporters argue he is more than qualified.
"There is no doubt Ahearne is a heavyweight and has a pedigree and CV most others couldn't come close to. This is a cynical attempt to sully his name," one senior source said.