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Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin receives formal apology from UCD over two-year harassment ordeal

Eoghan MoloneySunday World

Dr Aobhínn Ní Shúilleabháin has said she can now move on with her life years after suffering harassment from a former UCD professor now that the university has issued a formal apology to her.

Sharing a letter today that she received from the university’s acting president, the academic and broadcaster said she was happy to finally receive acknowledgement from UCD “that my experiences were not adequately or appropriately dealt with”.

The assistant professor at UCD’s department of mathematics and statistics detailed a number of disturbing interactions with a professor, Hans-Benjamin Braun, between 2015 and 2017. The professor, who no longer works at the college, was subsequently charged with harassment and barred from contacting her for five years.

Acting UCD resident Prof Mark Rogers wrote a letter to Dr Ní Shúilleabháin on Wednesday in which he said: “University policies at the time were inadequate to address the situation, contributing to an inadequate and untimely response to those actions by the university.

“It is clear you were not supported appropriately by other members of the university community and were not encouraged to pursue a formal complaint.”

Dr Ní Shúilleabháin, who won the Rose of Tralee competition in 2005, was working in UCD less than a year when Prof Braun began initiating "conversation that just didn't seem appropriate."

What followed was a two-year ordeal of harassment and stalking until in April 2017, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin reported Prof Braun to gardaí in Donnybrook.

When she went public in 2020, she recalled: "It kind of started to ramp up, and it felt like it was really getting out of hand. And at that point, I was so afraid, my nerves were just gone I couldn't deal with it anymore.

"I'd also just got engaged, and I really was having such a lovely time being engaged, it's such a happy time. To have my work really bring me down, I just couldn't take it anymore."

After a garda investigation, the case was brought to court in 2019 where a judge imposed an order barring Professor Braun from having any contact with her for five years.

"It was so nice to hear that, that it had gone through a process, and that at the other end division was an outcome that couldn't be denied," she said.

Prof Rogers said that while Dr Ní Shúilleabháin highlighted these issues and sought policy review within the university, “you were not facilitated in this”.

Prof Rogers said that her actions in highlighting what she went through, showed that “substantial change was required”.

“I apologise on behalf of the university for the events that occurred and the impact they had on you,” Prof Rogers said.

Ms Ní Shúilleabháin thanked the acting President for showing leadership on this, where it wasn’t apparent before”. She also thanked the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), concluding her tweet today #joinaunion.

"I’m so grateful for my friends and family who never let me let this go. I really hope others don’t experience what I went through. I hope my kids will grow up and study or work in environments that don’t accept bullying, harassment or violence in any form,” she wrote in her online post today.

“Thank you so much to all my colleagues at UCD and other institutions who supported me so much (since 2015). Thank you also to everyone who has brought in change across higher education to address sexual harassment and violence.”

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