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University of Limerick president Kerstin Mey to resign

Prof Mey will take up a professorship role within the university following months of sick leave

University of Limerick president Prof Kerstin Mey (right) with the university's chancellor, Brigid Laffan. Photograph: Liam Burke/Press 22

Prof Kerstin Mey is resigning as president of University of Limerick, three months after she took sick leave in the fallout from a botched property deal.

She had been under intense pressure since it emerged in March that UL overpaid €5.2 million for 20 student homes two years ago.

The Comptroller & Auditor General is examining the disputed deal and the Higher Education Authority has initiated a statutory review of UL governance.

“Prof Mey shall resign from her role as president of the University of Limerick,” UL chancellor Prof Brigid Laffan told staff in an email note on Friday afternoon.


“From September 1st, 2024, Prof Mey shall be taking up a professorship role within the university.”

UL acquired the 20 homes from a private developer in 2022 and 80 postgraduate students have been living in the properties since October 2023.

However, new valuations were carried out in the light of concern about the transaction within UL’s governing authority and executive management.

A confidential report for UL said the university lacked “correct and clear” information on the cost of the housing project before pressing ahead with a €11.9 million deal in which it paid “significantly above” market price

The report by former civil servant Niamh O’Donoghue found the cost structure presented to UL leaders was not “clear and consistent” with the August 2022 contract.

Ms O’Donoghue was previously secretary general of the Department of Social Protection.

Although UL’s governing authority agreed to pay €10.9 million, her report found the price rose by €1.08 million in the final contract signed only nine days later.

The increase was attributed to a rent arrangement that was not mentioned in the contract. The price was later discounted by €540,000 after a “take it or leave it” proposal from the developer.

Before taking sick leave in March, Prof Mey told staff that UL “paid significantly above market price” for the properties at Rhebogue, about 3km from the university campus.

The affair was particularly damaging because UL was already set to take a €3 million charge in its 2022-2023 accounts after overspending five years ago on a former Dunnes Stores site in Limerick for a new city-centre campus.

The Rhebogue debacle led a big majority on a committee that advises the president – which Prof Mey herself chairs – to say she should consider her position.

Ten of the 13 members of the UL executive committee signed a letter saying they had no confidence in her ability to tackle the housing overspend.

That loss of value – in addition to the Dunnes site impairment – is forecast to a result in a financial deficit in ULs 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times