Sunday 17 November 2019

Principal 'ran school as he saw fit', court hears

Edel Byron, leaving Sligo Circuit Court
Edel Byron, leaving Sligo Circuit Court

Paddy Clancy

A SENIOR Department of Education official has said that a former principal of Albert Reynolds's old school "ran the school as he saw fit".

Fergus Dunne, director of the department's financial-support services, was giving evidence in the trial of Edel Byron, the former secretary of Summerhill College, Sligo.

She is accused at Sligo Circuit Court of duping the department to pay €24,122 to former school supervisor John Fintan Brett between March 31, 2008 and June 2, 2009.

Ms Byron (40), of Ashbrook, Collooney, Co Sligo, who was a personal assistant to the former principal Michael Murphy, has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Brett (67), of Cleveragh Road, Sligo, a former Sligo Rovers goalkeeper, has already admitted dishonestly inducing the department to pay him the cash. He is to be sentenced on February 28.


Mr Dunne told the trial of Ms Byron that both Michael Murphy and his secretary had been trained by the department in an online system of payments for substitute teachers.

He said Mr Brett was contracted to supervise unattended classes and the play area.

He was "absolutely not" entitled to claim as a substitute teacher but "was paid on the double for both types of work".

He described a document presented by Mr Murphy to the management board as "extraordinary and incredulous" and agreed in court that the document showed Mr Murphy "ran the school as he saw fit".

He added: "Mr Murphy was clearly out of control in the management of the school. He was running it just as he saw fit."

Retired Det Gda John McHale told the court that in a statement Ms Byron said that in May 2009 she asked what position was Mr Brett getting paid for and Mr Murphy told her to put the payments through.

Later, she told Mr Murphy it would have to stop and that she wouldn't put substitute-eacher payments for Mr Brett through any more.

She added in the statement: "Michael Murphy was my boss. He approved payments as a substitute teacher for Mr Brett. I was only doing my job."

The jury was told that Mr Murphy had been arrested during garda inquiries but would not be a witness in the trial, which continues on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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