John Deasy has told the Dáil Public Accounts Committee that it was wrong to pin the blame for all the financial problems at Waterford Institute of Technology on former president Kieran Byrne.
He said: “On a personal level I think Mr Byrne was dealt with very badly. I think that ultimately all the issues which came about in WIT were lumped together and dumped on his doorstep, and it was unfair.”
“When you look at the documentation and the history of this, Kieran Byrne did a lot of good when it came to the institute and I think that’s been forgotten,” stated Mr Deasy, who is the PAC’s vice-chairman.
He said the entire responsibility had been laid in Mr Byrne’s direction. “He became the scapegoat frankly for a lot of things which went wrong in the institute and I think that was extremely unfair.”
In his opinion, “with regard to how he was dealt with personally by the Higher Education Authority, there are questions to be answered.”
With the non-renewal of Mr Byrne’s contract currently subject to legal proceedings, Mr Deasy said “it will probably be the court that determines that” — but “as the facts leak out” as to how he was dealt with, “it’s becoming more troubling frankly … and I’m not the only member of this committee who’s forming that opinion.”
Turning to the completion of the Carriganore sports complex — which, WIT President Willie Donnelly told the committee, will start next week and be completed by June — Deputy Deasy said this was very good news.
He said financial management at WIT has been regularised and since Mr Donnelly’s appointment in April he had “contributed an awful lot to that”. The institute was now at the point of being able to move on with the southeast university application process.
He said he and PAC chairman John McGuinness shared the view that it’s important “to draw a line under the issues that have dogged the institute” in the recent past, and I think that has been achieved … which is extremely positive.”
Mr Donnelly told Deputy Deasy he has “a very good relationship” with his IT Carlow counterpart. The previous merger discussions “fell apart before because the foundation wasn’t there” and “we want to get it right” this time round in order to develop “a university of real quality for the region.”