NUIG academic challenges ‘flawed’ inquiry on claims against him

Prof Heinz Peter Nasheuer denies allegations of bullying made by colleague at university

Prof Heinz Peter Nasheuer is one of nine individuals who are the subjects of complaints of alleged bullying made by a colleague at National University of Ireland Galway (above). File photograph: Google Street View

Prof Heinz Peter Nasheuer is one of nine individuals who are the subjects of complaints of alleged bullying made by a colleague at National University of Ireland Galway (above). File photograph: Google Street View

 

A senior academic at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) has brought a High Court challenge over what he says is a flawed investigation into claims he tried to sabotage a colleague’s career.

The action has been brought by Heinz Peter Nasheuer, a professor of biochemistry.

Prof Nasheuer is one of nine individuals who are the subjects of complaints of alleged bullying made by a colleague at the university. He denies the allegations, which date back several years.

Arising out of the complaints, the Labour Court appointed former trade unionist Janet Hughes to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations.

However, Prof Nasheuer says the investigation is flawed and should not be allowed to proceed on a number of grounds including that Ms Hughes had previously represented the complainant in an unrelated matter during the 1990s.

In proceedings that commenced on Tuesday, Prof Nasheuer seeks various injunctions against NUIG, including one halting the investigation on the grounds that it is oppressive and unreasonable.

He seeks to have the injunctions kept in place until the case has been fully determined by the High Court.

Not a disciplinary hearing

NUIG, represented by John O’Donnell SC, opposes the application and rejects claims that the process is flawed or that it should be halted. It says that the process is an investigation only and is not a disciplinary hearing.

Mr O’Donnell said it could well be the case that nothing adverse to the professor will come out of the process. He said NUIG also denies the investigation has in any way breached Prof Nasheuer’s rights.

Mark Connaughton SC, for Prof Nasheuer, told the court his client had worked with NUIG since 2003 and was “completely shocked” when the allegations were first put to him by the university.

Ms Hughes, counsel said, had represented the complainant in her capacity as a trade union official during the 1990s.

Mr Connaughton said that during the course of the investigation, his client discovered Ms Hughes had disclosed this fact to the complainant, the Labour Court and to NUIG, but had failed to do so to Prof Nasheuer until after the process had started.

He said another reason why the investigation was flawed was that Ms Hughes had consulted with the complainant and NUIG, but not the professor and his advisers, about the terms of reference of the investigation. These matters had led to fears that the investigation was biased against Prof Nasheuer.

The hearing, before Ms Justice Marie Baker, will resume later this month.