herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Force for good' principal fights to keep school job

A SCHOOL principal described as a 'force for good' is fighting a Dept of Education move to dismiss her.

A court heard no evidence was found to support claims Catherine McSorley paid pupils to attend school.

Kilkenny City Vocational School principal Catherine McSorley was investigated but cleared, the court was told.

She's now challenging a bid by the Minister for Education to sack her and has brought High Court action.

The Education Minister claimed Ms McSorley of Annamult, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, was "unfit for office".

Ms McSorley has been principal of Kilkenny City Vocational School since 1999 and she claimed to have turned the secondary school round.

Her lawyer Ercus Stewartsaid the minister's decision last year was irrational. If Ms McSorley is removed it would be the end of her career, he said.

When she took over at the school, it had been in decline for several years, but she had turned it around, he said.

Enrolments increased by 54pc and she was popular with pupils, parents and teachers.

Bullying

In 2006, then Minister for Education Mary Hanafin appointed Torlach O'Connor, a retired assistant chief inspector, to carry out an inquiry in to Ms McSorley's performance, the court also heard.

The terms of the inquiry included various allegations made, many in the media, about the management of the school.

The minister ordered an investigation into the organisation and administration of the school.

It also dealt with Ms McSorley's alleged bullying of staff and payment to students to attend school.

Mr O'Connor's report resulted in none of the allegations against Ms McSorley being upheld and advised that she was a "a very considerable force for good in the school".

It is claimed that Mr O'Connor acted outside his powers by purporting to extend the terms of reference to include eight new matters relating to financial allegations.

The Education Minister, it is claimed, acted outside of his powers by "making an unjustified irrational and grossly unfair decision on the basis of a fatally flawed and unsound report. The case before Mr Justice John Hedigan continues.

hnews@herald.ie

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