Thursday 19 April 2018

Full costs, but no damages, for re-instated school principal

A SCHOOL principal, who overturned a Ministerial order removing her as being "unfit for office", has been awarded the full costs of her High Court challenge.

However, Catherine McSorley, who was appointed principal of Kilkenny City Vocational School in 1999, was not entitled to any damages in relation to an internal inquiry into the matter, Mr Justice John Hedigan said. Ms McSorley, Annamult, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, brought the High Court action against the Minister for Education and County Kilkenny VEC, aimed at quashing the decision of the Minister of July 28, 2011, to dismiss her.

The action was brought after then Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, had in 2006 appointed Torlach O'Connor, a retired assistant chief inspector, to carry out an inquiry into Ms McSorley's performance. The terms of reference of the inquiry included various allegations regarding the management of the school, which had been the subject of four previous investigations.

The Minister had specifically ordered an investigation into the organisation and administration of the school in the area of human resource management; alleged failure of Ms McSorley to effectively apply the school's disciplinary policy; her alleged engagement in bullying staff members and her alleged payment to students to attend school.

It was claimed that, on foot of Mr O'Connor's interim report, a decision was taken to dismiss her, which she claimed was unreasonable and unfair. In his judgment last April, Mr Justice Hedigan said said there must be an order to quash the Minister's decision to dismiss her from her post.

Given the inordinate length of time since the events in question and the balancing of her very satisfactory performance of her duties as principal in the time since, the judge held the decision to remove her was "a manifest disproportionality that required the court to intervene."

Mr Justice Hedigan today rejected an application from counsel for McSorley for damages saying while he had sympathy for her, he had found in his judgment that there was nothing wrong with the local inquiry which had been held.

It would not be appropriate therefore to make an order for damages, he said. However, he was prepared to award her her costs and said the order should be against the Minister only. The judge also said people should draw a line under this matter "and move on."

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News