Sunday 22 April 2018

Nun fails to win teaching job back after long battle

Ralph Riegel

A NUN sacked from her primary school teaching post lost her four-year battle to get her job back yesterday.

Sr Maria O'Sullivan became extremely upset as she told Cork Circuit Civil Court she feared the manner of her removal from Bandon Presentation Primary School where she taught for 15 years would leave her "name being damaged".

The Presentation Order nun claimed she had effectively been made "a scapegoat" for problems at the Cork school.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain described the case as "very sad" and said he could understand how Sr Maria, a highly respected teacher, had been "very upset" by her treatment.

In September 2009, an Employment Appeals Tribunal had ordered the school to re-instate the nun after ruling her contract had been terminated without consultation.

The school yesterday successfully appealed against that order.

Judge O Donnabhain ruled that, because she was a member of the Presentation Order and had initially secured the Bandon teaching job on the nomination of her superior, she was effectively bound by the rules of her own religious congregation.


He pointed out that she did not secure her teaching position in the normal manner and did not face competition for the job from lay teachers.

"She was in a reserved, privileged position," he said.

Sr Maria, from Grange Way, Pinecroft, Douglas, Co Cork, was appointed to teach at the school in 1991 on the nomination of the Superior of the Presentation Order.

However, in 2006 she was suddenly informed that she was going to be moved -- a decision that she opposed.

Despite her appeal, she was still told she was being moved.

The previous February, she had written to the Bandon school's board of management, outlining a number of grievances that she had.

The court was told that a tribunal subsequently did not uphold those grievances.

In July 2006, Sr Maria said she met the Order's Sr Mary Hoare at what she described as a "dismissal meeting".

"She wanted me to take a career break. The reason she gave me was that she believed the board of management of the school was going to dismiss me because I did not attend a medical they had set up," she said.

Sr Maria said she believed she was being treated very unfairly after all her years of dedicated service at the school.

"I felt I was being made a scapegoat for the trouble in the school. I felt it was an injustice to me as a person. I was a very good teacher and I felt my good name was at stake," she added.

In August 2006, she was told not to return to the school.

Bandon Primary School wrote to Sr Maria thanking her for her contribution -- a letter which she took to be a dismissal note. The school denied this.

The school argued that, once the Presentation Order notified it they were withdrawing Sr Maria's teaching nomination, they could not retain her on their teaching staff.

Sr Maria claimed that when she met officials about her position, they told her she was no longer part of the school body.

"(One official) laughed in my face. She said: 'You have no teaching job in this school.' I was shocked," Sr Maria added.

The court heard that she continues to teach and remains a member of the Presentation Order.

Irish Independent

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