Expert To Look Into How Sex Offender Kept Athlone IT Job

An independent chairman has been appointed to investigate how a convicted sex offender kept his job as a childcare lecturer.

Conal Devine will conduct a review inquiry into relevant matters pertaining to the conviction of Dr Niall McElwee in the Netherlands and the subsequent concerns which arose in relation to matters of child protection.

Dr McElwee resigned from Athlone Institute of Technology earlier this month after it emerged he was convicted of attempted indecent assault on teenage girls in a Dutch hotel in 2004 while on a research trip.

It was later revealed a garda sergeant, who was part of the same trip, reported the incident to the HSE Midlands region on his return to Ireland.

The Institute’s authorities were only made aware of Mr McElwee’s conviction just weeks ago, forcing Dr McElwee to resign as Director of the Centre for Child and Youth Care Learning.

Meanwhile, it also emerged that a complaint was made against a lecturer in 1999 while he worked at Waterford Institute of Technology relating to a concern at the nature of the material being used in his teachings.

A material was reviewed and deemed inappropriate and Dr McElwee was instructed to immediately discontinue its use, which he did.

Mr Devine, an Independent Management Consultant, is a former Director of Industrial Relations at the Irish Medical Organisation. He has conducted a large number of reviews and investigations in respect of Child Protection issues and in the broader health arena.

Children’s Minister Brendan Smith welcomed the appointment, stressing the importance of having the matter pursued without delay.

“The whole child protection area is a priority for this Government and we are working with the various State agencies to ensure that we have in place the best and most practical systems available,” he said.

“I want to ensure that there is full confidence in our child protection measures and it is my aim that Ireland will be looked to as a place of best international practice.”

Dr McElwee was said to have traumatised teenage American tourists in a hotel in Amsterdam when in June 2004 he propositioned them while semi-naked.

In 2005 he was handed a three-month suspended sentence and a fine by a Dutch court. The lecturer said he was drunk at the time and deeply regretted the episode.

The Health Service Executive said the inquiry will report back to the Assistant National Director of Primary Community and Continuing Care (PCCC) services in the HSE’s Dublin Mid-Leinster Area. Findings from the inquiry will be made public subject to any legal restrictions.

“Draft terms of reference for the review inquiry have been drawn up and will be considered by the Chair prior to final agreement,” said a spokeswoman. “It is expected that the inquiry will commence as soon as possible thereafter.”

The HSE added that it was committed to establishing the full facts of what information was available to the Midland Health Board at the time in question and will seek the cooperation of the Gardai with the inquiry, particularly in establishing the exact sequence of events and information shared.

Mr Smith said that the events surrounding Dr McElwee have “clearly raised very serious concerns”.

“In the interests of public confidence and most importantly for the safety of our children, I have told the HSE that I expect Mr Devine to complete his investigation in the shortest possible timeframe,” he added.