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University denies nepotism allegations after president appoints wife to top post

One of Ireland's leading universities, the University of Limerick (UL), has denied allegations of cronyism and nepotism over the controversial appointment by the university's president of his wife to a senior management position, without consideration of any other candidates.

It has also emerged that the couple will soon take up residence in a new purpose-built campus presidential house which is nearing completion and is worth in excess of an estimated €1.5m.

Professor Don Barry, president of the University of Limerick and a graduate of Yale University, appointed his then partner and now wife Anna Doughan to a very senior post on his first day in office, without her sitting an interview or any other candidate being considered. Prof Barry took up office on May 1, 2007, and is paid more than €211,893 a year.

His wife had occupied the position of director of human resources since March 2002.

On his first day in office Prof Barry temporarily assigned duties in the area of HR policy and organisational development to Ms Doughan.

Four months later, her appointment was made permanent under the title of director of organisational development.

A college spokesman confirmed the appointment of Prof Barry's wife to the position but said it was done with the consent and knowledge of the college's governing authority and chancellor.

"This re-assignment of duties was in line with normal UL policies and practices and similar measures are routine in all Irish universities.

"The re-assignment was subsequently formalised under the title director of organisational development and governing authority and the campus community were so informed in November 2007," the spokesman confirmed to the Sunday Independent.

The spokesman said the appointment of Ms Doughan, who is a highly respected figure in third-level education, "did not involve any alteration in the terms and conditions of (her) 2002 contract of employment". In 2008, the position of director of HR was advertised and filled in accordance with established governing authority-approved recruitment procedures. Anna Doughan retired from the university in early 2009.

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It has also emerged that the University of Limerick is just about to complete a new plush campus home for its president. The college insisted this weekend that no taxpayers' money has been used in the estimated €2m-plus development.

The University House project is being funded entirely from private, philanthropic donations received by the UL Foundation specifically for this purpose.

Designed and developed by Don O'Malley and Sons Engineers and Building Services, the firm that redeveloped Thomond Park, the house will provide accommodation for the president and campus guests, as well as providing a venue for a wide range of university events and functions.

The company have listed the development on the recent projects list on its website. A spokesman for O'Malley and Sons declined to comment.

The university house is to follow in the footsteps of the Provost's Lodge in Trinity College and the Presidential Lodge in UCD. The Sunday Independent previously reported that UCD spent over €3.5m on the renovation of the Presidential Lodge following Hugh Brady's appointment as president.

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