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Doctor claims scholarship founders tried to have her passport cancelled

A KENYAN doctor has accused the organisers of a €250,000 scholarship of trying to cancel her passport after she "vanished" mid-way through the nine-year programme.

Dr Irene Mwangi, 33, claimed that she got a text message telling her that the founders of the O'Halpin Linders scholarship had asked the Kenyan ambassador to revoke her passport after she reneged on the programme. But the ambassador refused to act without consulting Dr Mwangi first.

The claims -- denied by the scholarship's founders -- emerged during a Medical Council inquiry into Dr Mwangi, who faces charges of professional misconduct.

Dr Eamann Breatnach, a consultant radiologist, accused Dr Mwangi of a "disgraceful" and "dishonourable" act of betrayal by failing to fulfil the scholarship. In one of the more unusual cases to come before the council's fitness to practise committee, Dr Breatnach told how he co-founded the programme with wealthy businessman Joseph Linders to help doctors in developing countries to improve their skills. Dr Mwangi was the scholarship's first student.

She was required to complete four years' radiology training at the Royal College of Surgeons, followed by a five-year post in the Mater Hospital in Nairobi.

After a farewell lunch in Dublin in July 2008, she was due to start her five-year post in Nairobi but she never showed up for the job.

She emailed the hospital in Nairobi on August 11 to say that she would not be taking up the post.

Dr Breatnach claimed that "for six to seven weeks" he didn't know where Dr Mwangi was and thought she was missing.

Out of concern for her welfare, he and Mr Linders met the Kenyan ambassador. The introduction was arranged by Maurice Manning, the head of the Irish Human Rights Organisation.

Dr Mwangi disagreed. She claimed that after the meeting, the ambassador contacted her mother in Kenya. Her lawyers produced a text message from her mother urging her to "please urgently talk to Kenyan ambassador in Ireland" because people were asking to have her passport cancelled.

The scholarship had a total value of €250,000 including free tuition, a free apartment provided by Joseph Linders, an allowance of €1,200 a month, a laptop, books and foreign travel to conferences in Washington and Europe.

But Dr Mwangi said she was not treated with respect. She was concerned that colleagues earned salaries ranging from upwards of €64,000 a year while she was on an allowance of €1,200 to €1,400 a month for doing the same work. She was also concerned about the five-year post in Nairobi, because she still didn't have a contract at the time she was due to start. She claimed she was afraid to tell Dr Breatnach in advance that she did not intend to take up the post in Nairobi.

Dr Breatnach said Dr Mwangi's "behaviour" could have brought the whole scholarship down very easily. Dr Mwangi watched the proceedings by video link from San Diego, where she now works.

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