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Principal got almost €250,000 in grants for her school using false information

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Fraud: Eileen O’Connor was previously handed down a one-year suspended sentence for the crime. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

Fraud: Eileen O’Connor was previously handed down a one-year suspended sentence for the crime. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

Fraud: Eileen O’Connor was previously handed down a one-year suspended sentence for the crime. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

A former school principal who provided false information to get €244,000 in grants for her school should not be allowed to apply for any promotional post for the next 10 years, the High Court has found.

Eileen O'Connor (38) was principal of Gaelscoil Mhuscraí in Blarney, Co Cork, when she made the applications to the Department of Education and Skills for capitation grants to which she was not entitled.

It involved overstating the number of pupils so the school would get extra capitation grants of €197 per child and ancillary services grants of €147. She did not benefit personally from the fraud, a court heard.

Yesterday, Ms Justice Niamh Hyland declined to confirm a recommendation of the teachers' regulatory body that she be restricted from applying for promotional posts for 15 years but said O'Connor should instead be restricted for 10.

In 2017 at the Circuit Criminal Court, O'Connor, under the name Aileen Ní Cheallaigh, of Mill Road, Midleton, Co Cork, was given a one-year suspended jail sentence after she admitted five charges of making use of a document required for accounting purposes that she knew was misleading, false or deceptive.

The court heard the offences happened between 2005 and 2009 and she used the money to provide accommodation and payment of extra teachers. Some €69,000 had been recouped at the time of the case in 2017 from deductions to school grant payments.

Last December, the Teaching Council recommended a condition be attached to her registration requiring that she not apply for a promotional post, including principal, deputy or assistant principal, for 15 years.

That recommendation was brought before the High Court yesterday when JP McDowell, solicitor for the Teaching Council, said she has since returned to work as a teacher but not as a principal.

The council panel which examined her case found she had admitted her wrongdoing and there were other significant mitigating features, but the panel was less impressed with the mitigation claims that she was young and inexperience and doing the best for the school, Mr McDowell said.

Ms Justice Hyland was concerned the council had sought a 15-year promotion restriction when O'Connor had not applied for any such position for the last nine years.

The council panel, in making its recommendation, had not taken that nine years into account when making its decision, she said.

She was therefore refusing to confirm the council's decision but said it will have to reconsider its decision having regard to that period when O'Connor did not apply for a promotional post or act in a position of responsibility.

O'Connor was not in court or represented.

Irish Independent