Former principal struck off from teaching after stealing €200,000

Teaching Council says man has breached trust of pupils, parents and colleagues

The man was convicted  of stealing funds totalling €204,000 from his  school and the Department of Social Protection. Photograph: Getty Images

The man was convicted of stealing funds totalling €204,000 from his school and the Department of Social Protection. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A former school principal who used his teaching role to steal over €200,000 has been banned from teaching for 15 years following a fitness-to-teach inquiry into his conduct.

Fionbar Ó Baoill (also known as Finbar Boyle), the former principal of Kilnaleck National School in Co Cavan, has been struck off following the conclusion of an inquiry by the Teaching Council’s disciplinary committee.

It also ruled that Ó Baoill (41) may not reapply to be put back on the teaching register for a period of 15 years.

The teacher had faced a professional disciplinary inquiry as a result of being convicted of indictable offences.

The three-person committee under chairperson Paul Moroney said the only proportionate and fair sanction was that Ó Baoill should be removed from the register as he was no longer fit to teach.

Mr Moroney said the former principal had engaged in “prolonged, elaborate and calculated dishonesty for the purpose of enriching himself.”

“Such wrongdoing can never be accepted or excused,” he added.

As an entrusted member of the teaching profession, Ó Baoill had breached the trust of pupils, their parents, his colleague and the schools’ board of management, Mr Moroney said.

Ó Baoill was convicted at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court in March 2018 of stealing funds totalling €204,000 from his own school and the Department of Social Protection between 2007 and 2012.

Although he was originally given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to five counts of theft and two counts of forgery, the Court of Appeal subsequently agreed with an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the sentence was “unduly lenient” and imposed a jail term of 15 months on Ó Baoill.

During his court appearances, evidence was heard that Ó Baoill used the stolen money for meals in restaurants, golf equipment and weekends away.

The committee heard that Ó Baoill had not engaged with the Teaching Council inquiry since he had made admissions at a preliminary hearing held in private earlier this year.

Conor Feeney BL for the Teaching Council, outlined numerous efforts made to contact Ó Baoill by various means including email and phone since findings of criminal convictions against him were proven against him at a public hearing on May 5th based on his own admissions, documentary evidence and the testimony of a Garda.

The inquiry heard a lawyer who recently called to the teacher’s registered address in Ballybofey, Co Donegal found nobody at home and the property vacant and unfurnished.

Neighbours said the house had been sold in recent months, although they said they had continued to see Ó Baoill in the area.

Mr Feeney said Ó Baoill had originally denied the allegations of theft and fraud but subsequently had entered guilty pleas to the charges when the case came to court and had repaid €25,000 in compensation.

He also noted that the teacher had apologised and expressed regret and remorse for his actions to the Teaching Council, while he had no previous criminal convictions.

Mr Feeney said Ó Baoill’s offences were of a serious nature which involved the theft of €74,000 from the Department of Social Protection that was funding school meals and €130,000 of the school’s own money for his personal use.

“There is no doubt that his actions had adverse consequences as the school was deprived of funds,” said Mr Feeney.

He claimed the offences were “at the higher end of the scale” as they represented a grave breach of the trust between a teacher and a school.

“It harmed the pupils of the school in the sense that it deprives them of resources intended for the school,” he added.

Counsel said it was an aggravating factor that the former principal’s pattern of behaviour involved “deliberate and intended acts” over a period of five years.

The dishonesty involved in the crimes was also an extra aggravating factor given his access to the school’s bank account, credit card and cheque book, he argued.

Mr Feeney said the fact that the crimes did not occur in the classroom did not mean they had no effect on his fitness to teach.

He claimed the protection of the public was paramount, while also stressing the importance of maintaining public confidence in the teaching profession.