Monday 16 December 2019

Batt O'Keeffe 'astounded' by claims of irregularities at college where he was president

Batt O'Keeffe. Photo: Frank McGrath
Batt O'Keeffe. Photo: Frank McGrath

Former Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe has said he is astounded by claims of irregularities at an English language college of which he was president.

Eden College on Burgh Quay was one of four English language colleges closed suddenly by Irish immigration authorities last month.

More than 1,000 students at the college have been left out of pocket.

Mr O'Keeffe resigned from his role as president and chairman of the board of the college shortly before its suspension.

He told RTE he was just an advisor on policy and direction and that he had no involvement with the day-to-day running of the college.

During his time as minister, Mr O’Keeffe set up a task force to look at regulation of the sector.

The action to close Eden College and others, was taken by the Department of Justice’s Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) and the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Other colleges that were closed were Millennium College on Lower Dominic Street, Business & Computer Training Institute on Parnell Square and the National Media College (formerly New Media College).

They said these colleges were suspended for immigration purposes, “pending further inquiries into allegations of irregularities”.

More than 1,000 foreign students have been affected by the closure of Eden College.

To get a visa to study in Ireland, they are required to attend classes for a minimum of hours.

Authorities have also suspended the issuing of visas and residence permissions to non-European Economic Area nationals seeking to enroll as new students with the four colleges.

Eden College has links with the UK-based Eden College International, which featured on BBC's Panorama programme showing fake candidates sitting tests in English and a multiple choice exam where the answers were read out.

Following the Panorama revelations, the UK Home Office suspended Eden College International and another college. Eden College International strongly denied any prior knowledge of, or contribution, in the frauds.

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