The Nolan Case | In the Dark


The Nolan Case | In the Dark

A couple of weeks ago I posted an item about the sudden departure of Prof. Philip Nolan from his post as Director General of Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) after allegations of misconduct (including bullying). That post included these words:

As an outsider I have no idea what has been going on at SFI, so have no dirt to dish, but it must have been rather serious for Prof. Nolan to have been forced out so quickly.

Despite that clear statement I have received a number of emails from “journalists” asking for gossip. Obviously I didn’t reply to them.

Anyway, it’s not only the sudden decision that led to Prof. Nolan’s dismissal that is striking; there’s also the fact that no formal disciplinary process took place and it was accompanied by immediate termination of his access to emails, etc. Actions so extreme are usually reserved for situations in which a staff member has committed gross misconduct, but that is not the accusation here.

Anyway, just a few days after his apparent departure from SFI, Prof. Nolan went to court and obtained a temporary injunction restraining his dismissal ahead of a further hearing about the case which began on 11th June and has not yet completed. Although no longer fired, Prof. Nolan has not been allowed physically to return to work.

I have no idea how this mess will end. It does seem that there must have been a complete meltdown in SFI that will be very difficult to reverse. Perhaps the best way forward is to hasten the end of SFI and the beginning up of the new entity (Taighde Éireann– Research Ireland) supposed to be formed by the merger of SFI with the Irish Research Council.

I have no idea who is in the wrong at SFI. Perhaps both sides are. However, for the record, I will state that when my Mam died in 2019 Prof. Nolan (who was President of Maynooth University at the time) sought me out and offered his condolences in person. That was a kind gesture that I greatly appreciated at the time, and one which few University managers I have known would have made in the circumstances. Certainly not the current President of Maynooth University.

P.S. I discovered from reading this article about the Nolan Case that the Chairman of the Board of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Peter Clinch, an economist; presumably no actual scientists were available.

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