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Dr. Frances Finnegan responds to Niall McElwee

May 1st, 2008 · 14 Comments · Niall McElwee

I have received correspondence from Frances Finnegan in relation to remarks made about her by Niall McElwee on this blog relating to her involvement in highlighting the use of materials by Niall McElwee in Waterford Institute in 1998.

‘Niall McElwee repeats his aspersion (first made in his recent statement to the Devine Enquiry) that in 1998 I complained of his use of inappropriate slides at WIT, for personal, rather than professional reasons. To be precise, in order to procure for my daughter, Dr. Rachel Finnegan, a senior position in the College for which he too, had applied.

For the record, and to set this matter straight, I wish to state the following:

In early April 1998 the highly respected part-time Therapy Lecturer in Social Care told me of her concerns regarding inappropriate slides that Niall McElwee was showing to both evening and daytime students. She reported that some of the students were distressed and requiring therapy. Shortly after this discussion, the Education Technician approached me with his own anxieties, being under pressure to facilitate the further, more disturbing use of these slides. Alarmed, and with serious misgivings for my own well-being (I was right to dread the consequences for me) I took these concerns to the College Equality Officer. About a fortnight later I met with her again, and once more she promised to act on the matter. After a further delay, during which time I heard nothing and was most apprehensive, I consulted a senior T.U.I. representative, who recognising the urgency of the case, arranged for our meeting with the College Registrar. This meeting took place on 27th May, and resulted in the immediate discontinuance of the use of the slides.

WIT confirmed last week that the job referred to by Niall McEllwee was first advertised on 29th May – more than a month after I made my initial complaint. At the time I could have known nothing of the future position, nor would I have had much interest in it. I had more important matters on my mind. These dates, easily verified, are on record in the College. Not so easily verified, of course, is the fact that I am neither so devious nor so ambitious as to act as he suggests. But then, what normal person is?

Niall McElwee’s latest allegation comes as a surprise – he having previously attributed my conduct to my being mentally “unwell” and later again, to academic jealousy! Let me now state that I acted as I did out of concern for the students, the reputation of the College (ironic, in the circumstances) and most of all, for the children whose bodies were portrayed in those images. Had I consulted my own interests I would not have acted at all. In the sad tradition of social care in Ireland, I would, knowing that something was wrong, have chosen not to get involved.

As it is, later events, and the revelations in the Devine Report demonstrate that my concerns, and the concerns of others were, even in 1998, amply justified – and more widespread than we thought.

Frances Finnegan.’


Dr. Frances Finnegan was Lecturer in Social History in WIT from 1980-2007.

Her books include Poverty and Prostitution: A Study of Victorian Prostitutes in York (Cambridge University Press, 1979, reprinted 2006) and Do Penance or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2004).

She retired in 2007 and has two daughters and three grandsons.



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