A former principal who stole €204,000 from his school for golf equipment and weekends away has been sent to jail after his original suspended sentence was deemed too lenient.
Finbarr Boyle (39), of Ballybofey, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to five counts of theft and two counts of forgery while he was principal at Kilnaleck National School in Co Cavan between 2007 and 2012.
Boyle, who originally faced 23 counts on the indictment, was given a wholly suspended two-year sentence on condition he repay €25,000 by Judge John Aylmer at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court last year.
The Court of Appeal found Boyle's sentence to be "unduly lenient" yesterday, on foot of an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). He was sentenced to 15 months and immediately taken into custody.
Court of Appeal president Mr Justice George Birmingham said Boyle used the school's visa card to pay for meals out, golf equipment and weekends away to the tune of €66,000.
Cheques were improperly drawn on school accounts, amounting to €29,000 and €32,000. Another €2,850 was misapplied from the school's post office account.
Mr Justice Birmingham said another fraud was uncovered in relation to the School Meals Programme run by the Department of Social Protection. Kilnaleck withdrew from the scheme in 2008, but Boyle continued to claim, ultimately resulting in a theft of €73,000.
When the department opted for electronic transfer, Boyle opened a second bank account with a view to obtaining further funds. The existence of the second bank account only came to light when authorities sought to close the first account.
Mr Justice Birmingham said Boyle had no previous convictions and was of exemplary previous character.
The Circuit Court heard Boyle was "highly regarded" in his local community.
Counsel for the DPP Monica Lawlor said the money was stolen for "selfish reasons" - meals, weekends away and a "large amount of golf equipment".
She said there was much disquiet in a rural area that someone in a position of trust could steal €200,000 and be required to repay only €25,000.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said it was "serious offending" and a custodial sentence was required.
He said the amount of money involved was significant and the level of deception, planning and premeditation was "very considerable".
He said there were two injured parties, namely the "public purse" and a small rural school, the impact on which must have been "significant".