Tuesday 28 February 2017

High Court stops Quinn from sacking school head

Ray Managh

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn was yesterday stopped from sacking a principal on the grounds she is "unfit for office" by the High Court.

Barrister Ercus Stewart told the court that Catherine McSorley, principal of Kilkenny City Vocational School, had time and time again been forced, often in court, to vindicate her decisions and good name and character over the past eight years.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy granted Ms McSorley, of Annamult, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, an interim injunction restraining the minister and Co Kilkenny Vocational Education Committee from terminating her employment or stopping her salary and benefits from next Thursday, September 1.

In an ex-parte application -- held in the absence of the other side -- the judge also granted her permission to bring proceedings challenging a ministerial order directing her dismissal and seeking various declarations relating to her position and inquiries into her performance as principal.

Performance

Mr Stewart said that in 2006, the then Education Minister Mary Hanafin appointed Torlach O'Connor, a retired assistant chief inspector, to carry out an inquiry into Ms McSorley's performance as principal.

The terms of reference of the inquiry had been broadly drafted to include various allegations that had been made about the management of the school, which had been the subject of four previous investigations.

Ms Hanafin had specifically ordered an investigation into the organisation and administration of the school in the area of human resource management; the alleged failure of Ms McSorley to apply the school's disciplinary policy, and allegations that she had bullied staff members.

Mr Stewart said not one of these -- nor allegations of payments to students to attend school or alleged mismanagement of school funds -- was upheld by Mr O'Connor in an interim report.

"The inquiry did provide a long-awaited opportunity for Ms McSorley to be conclusively and finally exonerated in relation to painful and distressing allegations which had been left unresolved for many years," Mr Stewart said.

He said Ms McSorley had to take High Court action on several previous occasions to defend her position and reputation.

The proceedings were adjourned until early next month.

Irish Independent

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