Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Questions for Niall McElwee, Athlone IT, and others.

April 15th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Niall McElwee

Five hours into reading the report I think I can agree that it met the Terms of Reference and Conall Devine and child protection consultant Eoin Rush have done a fine job in sometimes difficult circumstances. The report was into the actions and inactions of the HSE (or Midlands Health Board as was) and not into the actions or inactions of Niall McElwee.

The report details that both some members of the Gardai and staff in the Health Board knew about the assault. McElwee was allowed to complete his research even though someone knew about the assault. There are problems though on who knew what, at what level and even if those who knew about the assault actually knew about the conviction.

I have always said that I believed that the reports/reviews and investigations into the entire McElwee issue should be about more than child protection procedures and the HSE. Issues concerning academic administration and exchanges of information between police authorities were things that had me wondering when I returned from a holiday in July to news of the resignation of Dr. McElwee. The Devine report does actually give great insight into Waterford Institute of Technology’s recruitment and management procedures – particularly on the matter of the slides, and also into Athlone Institute of Technology and their procedures.

The fundamental question which remains for me at the end of it all – why didn’t Niall McElwee tell his employers? He outlines in detail in his evidence to the Review about how he said he told his funders for his private research? However his wages and status and practice as both a lecturer and supervisor of social care students and a researcher in the field were funded by another body – Athlone Institute of Technology – why did he not tell them and engage with whatever disciplinary or rehabilitation procedures that they might believe to be necessary? Who told him not to tell his employers?

His status as a lecturer and researcher in the area came from his employment in AIT – whilst funding for the work which he was engaged in at the time of the assault came from the HSE, questions need to be raised about when private issues become public concerns – ah C. Wright Mills. (That’s a sociology in joke there – excuse the levity!)

The report does outline some issues/perspective on the ways in which public funds are made available for small pieces of research to be undertaken. From my research and information (and indeed experience as a researcher and a member of the (over) researched) more and more questions are needed on how relationships between funders and those seeking funds are made and also the inclusion of those to be researched and how their views on the research process including access to funds and funding decisions are sought if at all.

I am glad to read that the HSE are to investigate the issues which surround the funding of research and other projects. Policies on procurement surely differ from one HSE region to another. Nods, winks and friendly acquaintances on one hand and on the the other end of the spectrum – ie forms, procedures, fairness, ethics and reviews. Non governmental organisations and other bodies who both commission research and also validate academic research by their participation should also review their procedures regarding commissioning, monitoring and child protection issues if they are involved.

I welcome comments on all the above – particularly in broadening the dialogue on the academic in Irish society – the relationships formed and the status given both inside and outside academic institutions.

The invitation issued to Niall McElwee to post his response to the report and other matters on this site remains.



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