Wednesday 29 January 2020

Sex lawsuit teacher tells of shock over arrest for school fire

Tim Healy

A teacher who alleges a male colleague sexually harassed her, told the High Court yesterday of her shock when she was arrested on suspicion of arson.

Several gardai called to Mary O'Toole's home in 2001 and told her they were arresting her in connection with a fire that damaged Tullamore College where she worked, she told the court.

It was surreal and "like something out of a film", she added.

Mrs O'Toole said she had nothing to do with the fire and no charges were ever brought against her. She felt school principal Edward McEvoy was behind her arrest -- arising out of complaints that she was sexually harassed by her teaching colleague Jim Mooney.

She believed it was part of an attempt to have her drop complaints she had made against the Vocational Education Committee (VEC) over the alleged sexual harassment.

Mrs O'Toole is suing Co Offaly VEC, claiming it was negligent and in breach of its duty of care toward her and that it caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress.

The claims are denied.

Mrs O'Toole (48), a married mother of one from Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, alleges she was leered at, inappropriately touched and intimidated by Mr Mooney between 1996 and 2000. She transferred to another school in 2001.


Yesterday, Mrs O'Toole told the court she was upstairs in her home when gardai called to the door. She heard her husband say "this is preposterous".

Mr O'Toole said that she was detained for 12 hours at Tullamore garda station. While being questioned, she said the gardai knew about her legal proceedings against the VEC.

She was informed by gardai that Mr McEvoy had made complaints about her, including that she had trashed a teacher's room and had made anonymous telephone calls. She denied all the allegations.

In bid to find out why she was arrested, she referred the matter to the Garda Complaints Board in 2003.

As a result, she had a meeting with a superintendent, who told her a statement given by Mr McEvoy was pivotal in her arrest. He told her "sorry if the gardai had got it wrong" and they would "not be back to her" over the incident, she said.

The case resumes on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News