Thursday 8 December 2016

Schoolteacher denies the harassment of colleague

Tim Healy

Published 21/07/2010 | 05:00

A SECONDARY school teacher yesterday rejected a former colleague's claims that he sexually harassed and bullied her.

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Jim Mooney, a teacher at Tullamore College in Co Offaly, told the High Court in Dublin that claims by Mary O'Toole that he leered, inappropriately touched and verbally insulted her between 1996 and 2000 were "nonsense" and "untrue".

Mr Mooney said Mrs O'Toole had a crush on him but that he was not interested in her.

He was "gobsmacked" and "disgusted" when, in 1998, Mrs O'Toole made a complaint that he had exposed himself and sought sexual favours from her.

He also engaged a solicitor to write to Mrs O'Toole, telling her to stop harassing him.

Mr Mooney was giving evidence in the resumed proceedings taken by Mrs O'Toole (48), a married mother of one from Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, against Offaly VEC. She is claiming that it failed to protect her from Mr Mooney when she worked at Tullamore College.

Mrs O'Toole claims that the VEC did nothing about her complaints. She moved to another school in 2001. The VEC denies her claims.

In reply yesterday to counsel for the VEC, Colm Smyth, Mr Mooney said that in 1997 he first became aware that Mrs O'Toole had a crush on him because she interrupted his classes on several occasions.

In March of that year, Mrs O'Toole, who lived about 500 yards from his home, visited him while he was sick. He described her visit as "uncomfortable".

On a later occasion, she called around to him during the early hours of the morning.

She had drink taken, he said, was slurring her words and told him: "Don't be afraid, I only want to be with you."

After telling her he was not interested in her, he persuaded her to leave the house.

However, he said she hung around, claimed to have lost her car keys and was shouting through the letterbox. Eventually, one of his housemates called the gardai.

After that incident, she telephoned him and asked him: "What about us?"

He also said that she wrote a "scary" letter to him shortly after that event.

Allegations

Mr Mooney claimed that in May 1998, while she was in his house during a social event with colleagues, she attempted to initiate sex, but he turned her down and put her out of his house.

He rejected her claim that he exposed himself to her and that she had fled the house.

After that, he said, she phoned him and asked: "Did last night mean nothing to you?"

He said it was after this, in November 1998, that she made the allegations against him. She also damaged his car and he instructed his solicitor to write to Mrs O'Toole. She withdrew the allegations against him, which "just about" satisfied him.

Mr Mooney also told the court that on another occasion Mrs O'Toole prevented him from getting into his car and demanded that he give her a lift home.

She also once hit him "a few digs" while they were in the staff room and on another occasion she pushed him, he said.

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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