Friday 19 January 2018

Sick leave stalled VEC harassment probe, court told

Tim Healy

THE head of a VEC disputing a teacher's claims she was sexually harassed at work said yesterday an investigation into her claims was never completed because she was out sick and later because she took legal proceedings.

Dermot O'Neill, CEO of Offaly VEC, denied Mary O'Toole's allegations that her complaints were not properly followed up.

He also rejected claims he and others employed by the VEC had accused Ms O'Toole of an arson attack on the school in June 2001.

Mr O'Neill was giving evidence in an action by Ms O'Toole against the VEC over alleged harassment by teacher Jim Mooney while they taught at the VEC-run Tullamore College between 1996 and 2000. Evidence in the case concluded yesterday and Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill reserved judgment.

In her proceedings, Ms O'Toole (48), a married mother of one, of Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, Co Offaly, alleges the VEC was negligent and in breach of its duty of care toward her and had caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress. She claims the VEC did nothing about her complaints and she had moved to another school in 2001. The VEC denied the claims.

Mr O'Neill, who was principal of Tullamore College before becoming CEO of the VEC, told the court it was his intention to fully investigate what he viewed were Ms O'Toole's serious claims against Mr Mooney.


The investigation was initiated and conducted in accordance with a nationally accepted code of conduct after he received the complaints in early 2001.

However, he was unable to bring that process to a conclusion because, initially, Ms O'Toole was out on sick leave and his legal advice at the time was not to communicate with her until she returned to work.

Later, it was because she brought legal proceedings arising out of her complaints, he said. His intention was always to "deal with" and "act on" any complaints Ms O'Toole had.

Under cross-examination by John Peart, for Ms O'Toole, Mr O'Neill denied he deliberately transferred Ms O'Toole to another school in order to get her out of the way. He also denied he transferred her to a school she did not want to go to.

Irish Independent

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