UCD launches inquiry into Opus Dei claims by students

Irish Times, April 3, 2004

By John Downes

UCD is conducting an inquiry into claims that a college lecturer told students they had to attend an Opus Dei event in order to pass their exams. The lecturer, Ms Geraldine O’Connor, has voluntarily agreed to stop teaching while the inquiry is under way.

A report on the matter is expected to be given to the UCD president, Dr Hugh Brady, within weeks.

Mr Paul Dillon, president of UCD Students’ Union, said yesterday his office had received a number of complaints from students at the college’s School of Diagnostic Imaging about pressure to attend an Opus Dei event.

This took place last January in Dublin and was called “The Richness of the Human Person”, according to Mr Dillon.

“As far as we’re concerned, attendance at the meeting was compulsory,” he said. “The lecturer noted the names of all those who didn’t attend the meeting last January . . . students felt intimidated into going.”

Ms O’Connor, who could not be reached for comment last night, is understood to be in her 60s. She is believed to have worked in UCD for more than 20 years.

UCD said it was also investigating complaints that Opus Dei material was distributed to students.

“We are taking the complaint very seriously,” a spokesman said. “A basic principle of UCD’s charter is that it is non-denominational.

“When it came to the attention of the president, he took immediate action and initiated an investigation. The individual in question voluntarily agreed to cease direct interaction with students pending the outcome of this investigation.”

According to the UCD student newspaper, the University Observer, Ms O’Connor has also suggested that students should have strong religious convictions in order to succeed academically.

The UCD spokesman said the college was keeping an open mind on the allegations. But he said the “full rigour of disciplinary procedures” would be brought to bear on any individual found to have contravened its charter.

The conservative Catholic organisation Opus Dei was founded in Spain in 1928 and has been in Ireland since 1947. It currently has approximately 800 members in Ireland, the majority of whom are lay. But the organisation has been criticised for its obsessive secrecy and its “sect-like” behaviour.


Posted April 15, 2004