THE chairman of a third-level college has been cleared of plagiarising his masters thesis, but admits he was naive in preparing the dissertation.
Flan Garvey said he was delighted that "a long six months of torture have ended" after a ruling that he'd plagiarised part of his thesis was overturned.
Mr Garvey – a former Fianna Fail councillor who has been the chairman of the governing body of the Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT) since 2003 – was accused by staff of plagiarising his 2008 dissertation.
It was alleged that portions of parish booklets, published in Co Clare in 1942 and 1965, had been included in the thesis.
An initial investigation by three academics on an external investigations panel (EIP) judged that two chapters of the thesis, 'A study of the Saiocht of a parish in county Clare', had been plagiarised.
The EIP, however, said the plagiarism was unintentional and "that Mr Garvey's MA degree was attained in an unjustified manner but was not obtained in a fraudulent manner".
Mr Garvey appealed the EIP decision and an examinations and assessment appeals committee (EAAC) overturned the findings and decided that it would be "appropriate that corrections be made to the thesis by way of the insertion of a corrigenda notification in the official copy". A corrigenda is a list of errors in a thesis along with their corrections.
In an interview with the 'Clare Champion', Mr Garvey said he was "delighted this is over because it was a long six months of torture for me and my family and the people who knew me".
He stepped down from his position as chair of ITT's governing body during the term of the investigations but said he "will be going back to it straight away".
Mr Garvey – a retired school teacher from Inagh, Co Clare – told the investigation into his thesis that he was unable to type. He provided handwritten notes both to his supervisor and to typists who typed different sections of his thesis.
"I would have to admit I was naive," he said. "It was 40 years since I was in college before. I was naive. I had never done a thesis before. The fact I didn't know how to type meant I would write the notes, give it to typists in Ennis, then give it to my supervisor, then it would come back to me to correct.
"Then I had to give it back to a girl in the IT before it was submitted. It went through so many different layers it would be amazing if something didn't escape us."
Mr Garvey described the controversy as a "hullabaloo".
He also rejected claims that there was a conflict of interest, with him – the college chair – enrolled as a postgraduate student at the same institute.
"I was an ordinary student and I stood up for myself and my fellow students," said Mr Garvey. "This case was unique. This has never happened before in an IT.
"Because I was involved internally, I had to have two external supervisors, who happened to be Fr Harry Bohan and Monsignor Padraig O Fiannachta, former professor of Irish in Maynooth college.
"These were appointed by the college. There was no conflict of interest, as was proven."