Teacher in abuse probe gets €576,000 on paid leave
A TEACHER placed on paid leave amid child protection allegations is estimated to have received half a million euro as a probe into the claims has dragged on for nine years.
The teacher is one of 13 receiving full pay while under investigation for the alleged abuse and neglect of students.
The Irish Independent has learnt that the teachers are all on paid administrative leave with an average annual salary of €64,000 while the inquiries take place.
The average length of time for an investigation to be completed is three years, but one teacher has been suspended for nine -- receiving a salary of about €576,000 during that time.
None of the pupils currently at the school involved would have been present at the time the allegations were made.
The revelation comes amid criticism of the Government's child protection procedures and a raft of scandals involving children in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Last night, Labour's Ruairi Quinn called on Education Minister Mary Coughlan to explain the reason behind the "unbelievably slow" investigations.
"The idea that an investigation could go on for nine years is unbelievably flawed," he said. "The minister should explain the reason why time is being lost in these inquiries."
The Department of Education, the HSE and the gardai refused to comment last night.
Teacher unions have admitted there is a need for speedy child abuse investigations.
The Children First guidelines make it mandatory to report suspected child abuse. But in 2001, the Department of Education issued its own guidelines to schools for reporting suspected abuse to a liaison officer.
This person, who is appointed by the school board of management, passes any concerns on to the HSE. It can then go on to formally notify gardai if it suspects a child has been physically, sexually abused or willfully neglected. If the child is at serious risk, a child protection inquiry is set up by the HSE.
But where a teacher is the subject of allegations, the guidelines provide for the right not to be judged before an inquiry.
It is also up to the school board of management to decide if a teacher should be suspended or receive pay during that time.
Last night, Gemma Tuffy, of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, said principals usually erred on the side of caution and placed the teacher on administrative leave when an allegation surfaced. And while she said such leave did not imply guilt, she admitted changes were needed to make the system more effective.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation insisted changes had to be made to child protection guidelines.
"Among the issues the union would like to see addressed is the provision of adequate resources to outside agencies, such as the gardai, to enable inquiries to be thorough yet conducted within a reasonable timeframe," a spokesman said.