Saturday 21 October 2017

School principal resigns over enrolment row

John Walshe

A principal has resigned from his school following a probe which confirmed that some of his pupils were also enrolled in another school run by his wife.

The Catholic Church authorities, who run St Oliver Plunkett's school in Navan, Co Meath, had originally decided to suspend John Hand as principal after a hearing in July.

But in a U-turn, the church has agreed to lift the suspension as Mr Hand had gone on sick leave and has now resigned entirely from the school.

No comment was available from any of the participants last night except the INTO, which issued a one-line statement saying that "Mr Hand is on sick leave. He is not suspended and has indicated his intention to resign from the school."

The saga began in September 2007, when a small number of pupils from Mr Hand's school in Navan were enrolled in another Co Meath school, Kilmainhamwood, where his wife Maire was principal.

The Department of Education investigated the situation after the issue was raised by a member of the board of management of the Navan school.

Two of the four pupils were children of the Hands. At the time, the Kilmainhamwood school was listed as having 73 pupils and had failed the previous year to get an extra teacher.

Ms Hand has since left the Kilmainhamwood school but on leaving she was almost immediately appointed principal of the Educate Together multi-denominational primary school in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Hearings

Last year, Mr Hand went to the High Court in a bid to stop the disciplinary proceedings against him as he claimed he would not get a fair hearing.

He sought to prevent the school manager Fr Brendan Ludlow from conducting a hearing into the allegations. Fr Ludlow had been appointed as a single manager by Bishop Michael Smith to replace the school's board of management. Bishop Smith is patron of the school.

But Mr Justice Daniel O'Keeffe rejected the application. He found that Mr Hand had not established any reasonable fear or bias or injustice in relation to the proposed disciplinary hearing.

The judge noted that there was a claim of hostility between Mr Hand and Bishop Smith. But he rejected claims by Mr Hand that Fr Ludlow had been "infected" by hostility towards him.

The inquiry went ahead and the decision to suspend Mr Hand was taken in July after the allegations about the transfer of the pupils was upheld. It was left open to him to appeal the decision to Bishop Smith under what are called the Maynooth Statutes, but he chose not to.

Irish Independent

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