Thursday 19 October 2017

Gay teacher settles alleged bullying case but claims others too afraid to complain

Pearse Brannigan leaves court after settling his case
Pearse Brannigan leaves court after settling his case

Breda Heffernan and Tim Healy

A RETIRED teacher who settled his action for damages over claims that he was subjected to alleged bullying – including homophobic incidents – has no doubt other teachers are in the same position.

Pearse Brannigan (56) said gay teachers are "terrified" of making complaints in case they are victimised.

Mr Brannigan claimed his employer of 25 years, Co Louth Vocational Education Committee, failed to deal with alleged bullying or provide him with support following several incidents in St Laurence's Community College and the Institute of Further Education, both in Drogheda.

In one alleged incident in St Laurence's, Mr Brannigan claimed a classroom door was graffitied with the words 'Brannigan is a queer and bastard'.

While he was a lecturer in the Institute in 2006, Mr Brannigan alleged an envelope with a half-peeled banana with a condom over it was placed in his locker.

The teacher also claimed he was subjected to abuse by a small number of students.

However, he claimed they were not adequately reprimanded by then principal of St Laurence's, Michael Dowd. The claims were denied by the VEC.

Mr Brannigan retired early in 2006 saying the alleged incidents had an impact on his health.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Brannigan said he had not wanted to settle his case.

However, he was warned he would be liable for his own legal costs as well as those of the VEC if he had lost and he ultimately settled for a sum he said equated to one year's wages.

"I was the first gay teacher to take a case like this. Every other gay teacher in Ireland, I'm sorry I failed them. But at least I was the only one willing to stick his neck out," he said.

He said he was in no doubt that gay teachers were facing homophobic bullying in Irish schools.

TERRIFIED

"From talking to teachers who are gay, they're terrified of making any kind of complaint because of victimisation," he said.

He said Co Louth VEC failed to provide support to him as he was vulnerable due to hospitalisation for an alcohol problem and by virtue of his sexual orientation. The claims were denied by the VEC.

His action for damages was due to begin yesterday before High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns who was told that the case had been settled and could be struck out with an order for Mr Brannigan's legal costs.

Irish Independent

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