What did Niall McElwee do?

 Posted by on July 17, 2007  Add comments
Jul 172007


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I never heard of Dr Niall McElwee until about four days ago when it emerged that he had been forced to resign from his job at the Athlone Institute of Technology where he had been lecturing in the area of social care and child protection.

It seems that he received a conviction for a sexual offence in Amsterdam two years ago, but hadn’t informed his employers. Now, the whole country is agog that a sexual offender is lecturing in child protection. Other people are raising dark mutterings about illustrative material that he used in a previous lecturing post at Waterford IT. It seems the material might have included explicit photos illustrating the physical trauma of child abuse, and some people found it offensive. He was told not to use it in future.

Now, you know my views on offending people: it isn’t a crime. I offend people every day, sometimes just for the sake of it. Before making a judgement on Niall McElwee, I would like to know exactly what the offensive material was, and I would like to know who he was showing it to. If he obtained it illegally and it was illegal to possess it, we should be told, but I haven’t heard anyone suggesting that. If it was for the purpose of teaching a class of professionals, I don’t see the problem. After all, if lecturers could never show offensive or disgusting material, then student doctors and forensic scientists wouldn’t get much of an education, would they?

I don’t know anything at all about the case in Holland, but I would like to know what exactly Niall McElwee did. From the news reports, it seems he got shitfaced drunk, blundered into a bedroom occupied by four young American girls, propositioned them, climbed into bed with one of them, got kicked out again and generally made a total fool of himself. He was subsequently arrested, and convicted of sexual assault, but maybe that’s not the entire story. Did he do something else apart from entering a bedroom occupied by four people, drunk, in his socks and underpants and making a complete offensive nuisance of himself?

It worries me. It worries me, not because I know what McElwee did, but because if everybody who ever behaved badly could be convicted of a sexual offence, the prisons would be full of sexual offenders, both male and female. And also because the definition of a sexual offence varies from one country to another. Before sacking somebody, we should be looking at what constitutes a sexual offence in this country. It’s almost impossible in places like Saudi Arabia or Iran to go outside your front door without committing a sexual offence. If McElwee had been convicted in Iran of the sexual offence of Having unIslamic dirty thoughts and wearing a knowing smirk, would the Athlone IT have called him a sexual offender and sacked him? No they wouldn’t, but why not? After all, he’d still be a convicted sexual offender.

Are we all agreed that a sexual offence is the same in Irish law as it is in Dutch? That’s all I’m asking. Tell me more. Tell me what he did. I need to know before I can start demanding his head on a platter like the media and the rest of the Irish blogosphere.

Worse, let’s look at the print media for a second. The Irish Independent is a disgrace to journalism. I think we all agree about that. It’s axiomatic, so to speak. Here’s what the Independent’s headline says:

Female colleagues complained about shamed childcare expert.

I read and re-read the article, trying to understand the relevance of the words.


Is that relevant? No.


Were the complaints upheld?


So what exactly is this headline meant to convey? Do you need to ask? Of course not. It’s meant to say Pervert!

I read this story, written by Maeve Sheehan, an incompetent, cynical disgrace to a profession that was once respected. I presume this name is invented — at least, I personally wouldn’t want anyone to know I was behind such a dishonest article, but hey! that’s just old-fashioned me. The story is full of innuendo and entirely empty of fact.

If you look deeper into the story, here’s what you read:

. . . three former female colleagues wrote to the Minister for Education asking for an inquiry into his appointment and rapid promotion at the institute. Five years ago he was accused of bullying and harassment by another female colleague – a claim that was never substantiated.

What’s this about?

The bullying accusation was never substantiated, so that’s gone.

Three former colleagues wrote to the Minister.


Their complaint was that he’d been promoted too quickly.  I’d call that envy.

They were female.


Does that make their word more believable? Who gives a shit if they were women or men? Why is it relevant?

Bad, poor, smear journalism.

There you go. McElwee might well turn out to be an abuser once we get the full information, which we don’t have yet. But I’m not going to take the word of a bottom-feeder like Maeve Sheehan for it. To expose corruption and abuse we need solid, intelligent journalists with integrity. Unfortunately, the Independent doesn’t have a policy of hiring people who possess intelligence or integrity, or even people capable of writing coherent English. This is a pity. Reporting like this undermines the credibility of whatever decent journalists are left.

I still vividly remember Fr Brendan Smyth, an evil old bastard who raped and abused children for generations. Smyth precipitated the collapse of a government and threw the entire country into convulsions from which it still hasn’t emerged. Brendan Smyth was a manipulative rapist. So was Fr Sean Fortune. So are George Gibney and Derry O’Rourke, former national swimming coaches.

Now, forgive me, but I find it hard to equate McElwee’s behaviour with any of the aforementioned bastards, and yet the whole country is aghast at the notion of such a man lecturing in child protection. I realise that the girls in the room were under 18, and I also suspect that, as a parent myself, I would probably want to smash his face in for his behaviour, but still, the level of smugness among the media people is becoming unbearable.

Let me ask you this: if you had to fill out an application for a job, and if it had this question on it, and if you had to answer it truthfully under pain of severe electric shock to the genitalia, how would you be able to answer?

Here’s the question:

Did you ever, in the entire course of your life, whether under the influence of alcohol or otherwise, make unwelcome sexual advances to a member of the opposite sex?

My opinion? Nobody in the entire country, man or woman, would have a job. (Except, of course, employees of Independent Newspapers who, as we all know, are entirely above reproach).

I’m not saying Niall McElwee should have remained in his position. I’m only saying I don’t have enough information yet to form an opinion, but I’ll tell you this much: what we’re seeing at the moment isn’t informed public opinion.

What we’re seeing is a lynch-mob baying for blood.

kick it on kick.ie

  16 Responses to “What did Niall McElwee do?”

Comments (16)

    It’s diversion tactics Bock, they need someone to take the heat off Bertie and the Mahon Tribunal and what better way than setting up ANOTHER inquiry. An inquiry where the crux of the matter is, what a drunken stoned Irish man did on his hollies with four teenage Americans (who probably looked well passed their years like all the trailer trash teens you see on Ricki these days). It was attempted sexual assault, while buck leaping around the girls room in his jocks (we’ve all been there) he tried to hop into bed with one of them.


    Mmmmmmhh. It has been quite a while since the halceon days of running around the place in jocks propositioning the fairer sex for sex! I cannot swear that I haven’t done it, although proof may be “hard” to find now. That’s another thing, why are females called the fairer sex? (not my experience) leaving misogney aside, dare I, let he who is without the sin of acting the total tosser (again no pun) cast the first stone. I think a few drinks at our bar of choice will bring clarity later.


    Sorry, halcyon


    With a name like that he’s probably guilty of trying to overcompensate.


    Search Monkey Dusts Paedo Finder General on You Tube, very to the point.


    I’m not saying you don’t have a point. But if he tried to batter his way into my underage teenage daughter’s dorm room in his y-fronts, climbed into bed and groped her, he’d have lost a lot more than his job.
    I’d be wearing his crown jewels as a necklace by now.


    b3n: I don’t know if it was political. Even my paranoia doesn’t extend that far.

    qjs: I believe you’re no stranger to prancing around in your jocks and socks.

    Conan: Ridiculous name. Ridiculous man.

    Manuel: I didn’t quite know what to make of that video, but I can see where he’s coming from. We live in a new era of denunciation without due process, and that’s what bothers me.

    Mr Skinner: I’d feel the same. If anyone did that to a daughter of mine, I’d probably do violence on them. However, I still have a difficulty with people passing judgment before all the facts are available because it isn’t even about this individual: it’s about the way we deal with all these cases. Ultimately, it’s about protecting you and me from the idiot journalists of the Independent and its like.


    that’s it, sugar: We live in a new era of denunciation without due process, and that’s what bothers me. somehow every reporter thinks he or she is going to be the next woodward & bernstein without the real work or a real story. you’re guilty until proven innocent and then maybe that story will appear on the inside pages without an apology from the paper.


    Hi Bock
    As someone who has blogged about nothing else all week I’m exhausted by it all.

    One point I would make about the fact that female lecturers raised concerns about McElwee in 2000 is about the nature of gender and power in academia. I get the feeling from my reading of the issues, contacts with some involved by email and personal experience in academia that many feel that there was fast track promotion of a man by other men, and ignorance of concerns of how things were taught and done because it was women making the complaints – in fact anyone who sticks their head up and complains about anything in a third level institution is marked out as trouble – many end up on sick leave or quit their job because they are not taken seriously. And many others don’t bother opening their mouths at all.

    What we could be seeing here is years of frustration at irregularities finally being given an opportunity for an outlet – not just a case of a lynch mob.



    Savannah: You wouldn’t believe what a shit paper the Independent is unless you saw it. And shit reporters to staff it. People who wouldn’t get a job cleaning toilets anywhere else.

    Suzy: If somebody could explain exactly what happened in Waterford, maybe we could make more sense of it. If he was using illegal material, people should say so. If it was simply that some staff members were offended then the story has no substance. People get offended for all sorts of things. It might astonish you to learn that people even get offended by things I say here about tinkers and stuff like that . I know. It’s hard to believe.


    I second that call, I want to know what exactly was so offensive about the Waterford stuff.
    Also Bock, the Indo really really is the absolute slime bucket of Irish Newspapers and this kind of rabid breathless reporting gets their engines running. Spot on.


    I’m not with you on this one. Anyone convicted of a sexual offence (anywhere in the world) should not be working in/ lecturing about child protection. End of story for me.


    I have a few thoughts.

    Firstly Bock, I am very impressed with your article. You say some powerful things and they need to be echo’d throughout the entire media world, although most specifically, Ireland’s.

    The Independent IS shit. They screwed up many things in their writing, even so simple as suggesting Niall has a 5 yr old Daughter. It’s too bad HIS name is Conor.

    In regards to the Waterford issues, I find it frustrating these have resurfaced. Dr. McElwee used legal pictures of horrific images on child protection matters, which did offend some. As it should. That’s the point. Isn’t it better to weed out those that can’t handle it then, rather than when they are faced with dealing with the strong issues first hand, in real time?! Then people complained that Dr. McElwee had been given too many promotions in too short of time?! I agree, it is irrelevant the sex of the complainants. Why punish someone with drive, enthusiasm, effort and skill?

    Those issues are mute. What happened in Holland is different. I, again, agree with you Bock, we need to know more. I’ve known this man for 7 years and I truly respect him. I will stand by him.

    He made a mistake, which is appearing to be a rather large mistake. I don’t like what I am hearing and I don’t like that type of behaviour, but I really don’t like media and other bigots jumping to slander the name of a person that has hard earned a reputation built from the ground.

    If he’s guilty, he’s guilty and he will serve the consequences, as anyone should. But this man has pushed Ireland’s Childcare sector into new, very positive and needed, directions from years back. Helping Irish Childcare become so much more effecient and stable than it ever was. He is respected and should be (for his professional acheivements, professional teachings and his career).

    I do agree, that if anyone were to scare my daughter as they say Dr. McElwee did, I would be extremely upset and NOT so passive. But the media is mixing issues, poorly and factually incorrect.


    may he who has not sinned fire the first stone,the mob are cick not mnELwee.Leave him alone he is a good man with faults.Fuck off mob.

    former student of Niall


    sorry sick not cick


    Since you mention Saudi here, I thought I’d send you that letter I wrote to the times in Jan.

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