Eviction of former Ulster v-c on hold

December 23, 2005

Ulster University has agreed to postpone attempts to evict Gerry McKenna, the former vice-chancellor, from his official residence.

The undertaking was reached at Belfast High Court on Tuesday morning after it emerged that the former vice-chancellor had had an application to retire on the ground of ill health rejected by the trustees of the Universities Superannuation Committee.

Professor McKenna stepped down in July after an investigation by Sir Michael Buckley concluded he had a case to answer over allegations of lax financial controls, attending meetings impaired by alcohol and harsh treatment of staff. He was offered a deal to return in a lesser role as president for one year, but he failed to take up his duties in August.

Professor McKenna is mounting a court battle against the university to halt plans to evict him from its residence in Coleraine on January 2 . He wants to remain in the house until the end of July, and is seeking compensation for personal injury and loss resulting from alleged breach of contract.

At Tuesday's hearing, the case was adjourned until January 11 to allow Professor McKenna's legal representative to consider appealing against the USS's decision, which comes despite Ulster's support for the retirement application.

The professor's barrister, Peter Coll, said the decision to reject the ill-health retirement application added "an extra air of uncertainty" to the High Court case. "There will likely be an appeal," he said.

A barrister representing the university said no action would be taken on January 2. "We will continue to pay his salary and will take no steps to evict him until further order," he said.

Claire Regan is a reporter for The Belfast Telegraph .

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