UL has ‘no regrets’ over Limerick City site purchase

University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey. Pic Sean Curtin True Media.

UNIVERSITY of Limerick (UL) President Professor Kerstin Mey says the university has no regrets about the controversial purchase of a prominent City Centre site.

Prof Mey appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last Thursday to answer questions about UL’s purchase of the former Dunnes Stores site on Sarsfield Street, which the University paid €8 million in 2019.

The building had been professionally valued at €3 million just two years previously.

However, during the lengthy sitting of the PAC, frustrations arose about Prof Mey’s reluctance to answer questions put to her by committee members, and UL’s refusal to release a report compiled by KPMG investigating the purchase of the Sarsfield Street site.

When asked by Fianna Fáil’s Paul McAuliffe whether the University overpaid for the site, Prof Mey said there were “no regrets”.

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“We paid money to acquire a strategic site and iconic site in the city centre and we have no regrets,” she declared.

According to University officials, the KPMG report into UL’s purchase of the Dunnes site has been used to completely change UL’s governance systems – despite the fact that only six people from the University have seen the report.

Professor Mey said that releasing the report could put the University at risk of litigation and that its contents were currently before the courts in a case taken by former chief operating officer Gerry O’Brien.

UL corporate secretary John Kelly said that “there was likely to be litigation” and that the report had to be carefully guarded.

“The chancellor (Mary Harney) was very clear she didn’t want to put UL at risk of litigation,” he said.

Professor Mey’s evasive approach to answering questions continued when she was asked if she had received media training ahead of her appearance at the PAC, with Wexford TD Verona Murphy having to ask the University’s president 23 times before being told that Mey had been trained “earlier this year”.

She later revealed that she had undergone media training earlier this month.

Deputy Murphy said the entire sitting of the PAC was an “arse-covering exercise” for UL, while Sinn Fein TD John Brady said that UL had given “evasive answers to very legitimate questions”.

“I hope you have the receipts for the media consultants. I’d be looking for a full refund,” he said.

A spokesperson for UL said that the University did not wish to comment any further on the matter.