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'Double-job' lecturer can claim two pensions

Exposed for double jobbing in two third-level colleges, former lecturer Fergal O'Malley will keep both of his pensions the Sunday Independent has learned.

Mr O'Malley was forced to resign his post in November 2007 after a post-graduate student at NUI Galway, annoyed at having to cover the lecturer's electronic engineering class while he travelled 90km to Athlone IT to teach the same subject, blew the whistle. Mr O'Malley earned €170,000 per year from the two posts, according to figures presented to the Dail Public Accounts Committee last week.

However, it has emerged that he was paying contributions to pension schemes in both colleges during his eight-year tenure, so he is legally entitled to keep both. Mr O'Malley also sought a severance package on his resignation. And it was revealed last week that Mr O'Malley's teaching hours were much greater in Athlone than in Galway, where he was also heavily involved in research. In Athlone, he would have been expected to teach up to 16 hours per week and spend the rest of the working week on preparation, marking, and administrative duties.

In Galway, his teaching hours were in the single figures -- although he was also engaged in a number of research projects. He had worked in Galway since 1995 on a contract basis and took up a full-time position in the electronic engineering department of in 1998. He served as head of department on two occasions in Galway during that time.

During his time at both colleges, Mr O'Malley paid into two pension schemes; and despite his double jobbing, he is allowed to keep both.

Politicians from all parties have criticised college authorities for allowing Mr O'Malley to benefit from "double jobbing". Fianna Fail's Darragh O'Brien said: "You have been making double contributions to this guy for eight years. I find it incredible because, effectively, he should not have been working in two full-time roles. When we are facing tough economic times and dealing with issues, such as whether or not to introduce third-level fees, it's difficult to understand how a situation like this could happen. Are we just going to let this guy walk off into the sunset?"

President of Athlone Institute of Technology Ciaran O Cathain said that the college had received legal advice suggesting Mr O'Malley was entitled to the pension. "We were advised by our own legal team that he would be entitled to his pension, because it was paid into and he had fulfilled all the terms of his contract."

However, he stressed Mr O'Malley didn't receive a pay-off. "He would have liked a severance package, certainly -- but we made it quite clear that we wanted his resignation forthwith. Failing that, we were going to suspend him without pay. In the negotiations back and forth between his legal team and ours, we were very clear that there was going to be no severance package offered -- and no severance package was paid."

Brigid McManus, secretary general of the Department of Education, said the advice given to NUI Galway was the same -- the two pensions had to be paid. Labour's Roisin Shortall said that those working in the university sector are "a law unto themselves".

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) said yesterday that the Mr O'Malley's case is a matter for the institutions involved. A spokesman for the HEA said it is satisfied that steps have been taken to rectify the matter.

"While we can never say never, this should not happen again. We are happy that this was an isolated case," the spokesman said.

But the spokesman admitted that the HEA is not carrying out an investigation into whether or not there are any more cases of double jobbing by Irish college lecturers.

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