Wednesday 20 March 2019

Simmering university dispute boils over with 'Nazi' blog posts

FERGUS BLACK

A ROW between a college lecturer and his university boss boiled over onto the internet when a web blog called on the president to reveal whether his father was a member of the Nazi party.

The blog was one of a number of exchanges in a dispute that has dragged on for more than six years and centres on whether a college lecturer was dismissed or resigned from his post as a computer applications lecturer at Dublin City University in 2003.

DCU, which is appealing a 2003 rights commissioner ruling that Sean O'Nuallain should be reinstated to a permanent position with no financial loss, maintains that it did not terminate his employment and that he had "repudiated" his contract.

Mr O'Nuallain insists he did not resign and was constructively dismissed by the university. He is due to give evidence today before an Employment Appeals Tribunal which is hearing the case.

Yesterday, DCU president Ferdinand Von Prondzynski said he had never known a case like it in his 30 years of academic life and it was quite unique.

He told the tribunal he still had no concept of a situation where a member of staff with a serious issue between him and the college simply refused to engage with anybody to resolve the difficulty.

His counsel yesterday read out a series of blogs and emails which he said Mr O'Nuallain had written about college staff and the president.

The Nazi reference appeared in a blog in September last year. It said it was time the professor revealed whether his father was a member of the Nazi party, if he fought in World War II and whether he was coerced or was a willing participant.

Prof Von Prondzynski said this was one of two blogs his son, who has special needs, read and it really upset him. "My father was born in Germany and yes, he was in the German army in World War II -- as most Germans of that age were and had to be. He was wounded several times and eventually died of those wounds years later," he told the tribunal.

But he denied that his father or any member of his family was ever a member of the Nazi party and said the reference was a step beyond any boundary that was acceptable.

Flared

The DCU head said if this was still 2003 -- when the current dispute flared -- he could understand that there might be a degree of hurt and bitterness on Mr O'Nuallain's part.

"But this dish is cooked for a long time and it should be cold at this point," he said.

In another blog Mr O'Nuallain had denigrated his colleagues. In those circumstances his return to the DCU campus would have been "incendiary", said Prof Von Prondzynski.

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