independent

Saturday 18 November 2017

'Psychologist' who lectured at suicide seminars in Wexford admits his PhD is fake

By David tucker

Fergus Heffernan pictured in the Talbot Hotel in Wexford in 2013 when he was guest speaker at the Wexford Education Network seminar and AGM. Also in the photo are Louise King (left), chairperson, Wexford Education Network, and Angela Hogan.
Fergus Heffernan pictured in the Talbot Hotel in Wexford in 2013 when he was guest speaker at the Wexford Education Network seminar and AGM. Also in the photo are Louise King (left), chairperson, Wexford Education Network, and Angela Hogan.

Kilkenny-born celebrity psychologist Fergus Heffernan was one of the key speakers at at least two seminars on suicide in Wexford town since 2013.

But now he has admitted that his PhD in psychology is fake, has cancelled a number of talks and taken his website offline.

In 2013, 'Dr' Heffernan spoke on suicide at a Wexford Education Network seminar at the Talbot Hotel and in 2015, he shared a platform with Wexford's former mayor Cllr George Lawlor at a World Suicide Prevention Day seminar in the town.

'Dr' Heffernan has worked as a therapist and has been a guest on some of the country's most popular radio programmes with top presenters including Marian Finucane, Ray D'Arcy and Dave Fanning.

He has also lectured in family therapy, and toured the country ­giving talks on mental health to corporate and community groups including schools, sports clubs and parents' councils.

During his 2015 visit to Wexford, 'Dr' Heffernan shared a platform which included Cllr Lawlor who said he was shocked and saddened to hear that the man was not what he purported to be.

'I am saddened to her that. The notion that people would use forums such as Mr Heffernan did to promote himself while at the same time concocting his qualifications is reprehensible,' said Cllr Lawlor.

'The last thing those affected by suicide need is someone purporting to be qualified assisting them. Sadness is my prime feeling on hearing. Suicide is too sensitive a subject to have this come to pass.'

'Dr' Heffernan's talk, which was very well received, was on early exposure to anxiety and the usefulness of a family plan.

The preamble to the 2015 seminar spoke about County Wexford as 'consistently having one of the highest suicide rates in Ireland'.

'The aim of the evening is to explore new and creative ways, to lessen people's emotional pain, that too often leads to self-harm and suicide,' it said.

Dr Heffernan admitted that his doctoral qualification in psychology is fake following an investigation conducted by the Irish Mail on ­Sunday.

The paper said its investigation also revealed he had falsely claimed to be a visiting professor at a number of top international universities, and that his claim to have served with the Irish Defence Forces in Lebanon in 1976 was untrue - as there was no conflict in Lebanon until 1978.

In response to these discrepancies, he said he used the wrong terminology and that he was a "visiting lecturer".

He also claimed that he was in fact in Lebanon in 1978.

The website of Heffernan's business, CHH Services, was taken offline last weekend and has been replaced with a notice that the site is undergoing maintenance.

After evidence of discrepancies in relation to his credentials was presented to him, Heffernan admitted his PhD in Psychology was fake but claimed to have been the victim of an elaborate scam.

He said he had applied to enrol in a doctoral programme in response to an online ad and had attended an interview at a hotel in Leeds.

Most of his contact with his academic supervisor also took place in a hotel rather than on the university campus, but Heffernan claimed this was convincing because the supervisor 'always had a podium and a college.

Admitting his PhD is fake, he told the Mail on Sunday: 'There is an awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I have been living a lie for the past 20 years. Believe you me, I am finding this out for the first time and my world has been ripped from under me.

'I do not expect you or anyone else to believe that, and the fact is the reality is the reality now.' Heffernan added: 'The title has been a lie. Oh my God… Fergus Heffernan the great fraud. Fergus Heffernan the scam artist. Fergus Heffernan the liar. That's what everyone will hear anyway.

'But what about Fergus Heffernan the victim? I don't suppose anyone will want to hear that."

He had also claimed to be a visiting professor at Trinity College Dublin, Boston University, and Columbia University in New York. All three institutions said they have no record of any employment or affiliation with Mr Heffernan.

Wexford People

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