Monday 18 November 2019

Teacher faces legal bill after losing sex case

Mary O'Toole, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, leaves court yesterday with husband Eamon. Photo: COLLINS
Mary O'Toole, from Tullamore, Co Offaly, leaves court yesterday with husband Eamon. Photo: COLLINS

Tim Healy

A SCHOOLteacher is likely to face a massive legal bill after her claims that she was bullied and sexually harassed were "not credible", according to a High Court judge yesterday.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill said that he did not accept there was any sexual harassment or bullying of Mary O'Toole by her then colleague Jim Mooney at Tullamore College in Offaly.

He dismissed the claims and adjourned the issue of costs, which will run to thousands of euro, until next month.

Ms O'Toole had sued Offaly VEC, as operators of the school, claiming it did not help her and instead appeared "to take the side of the bully".

The judge said that, up until Mr Mooney unequivocally rejected her romantic advances, she had made no complaint about him to the VEC.

She had "romantically pursued" Mr Mooney on a number of occasions and he had repeatedly rejected her, the judge said.

The VEC had no liability for the complaints she made, he added.

Ms O'Toole (48), a mother of one from Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, and a teacher of history, geography and English, left Tullamore College after she claimed she was leered at, inappropriately touched, verbally insulted and demeaned by Mr Mooney, on occasions between 1996 and 2000.

She claimed the VEC failed to provide her with a safe place of work and recklessly inflicted emotional suffering and nervous stress. The VEC denied her claims.

She admitted damaging Mr Mooney's car in 1998, but denied that she had pursued Mr Mooney.

Mr Justice O'Neill accepted Mr Mooney's evidence that he "did not at any time engage in any behaviour towards her which had any kind of sexual connotation or suggestion".


Evidence from Mr Mooney's two former housemates, Christy Doherty and Louis O'Keeffe, and from teacher Michelle Brookes, were of considerable assistance to the court in resolving the conflict of evidence in the case, the judge said.

The two housemates gave evidence that Ms O'Toole called around to the house they were sharing twice on an evening in May 1997.

Despite being told that Mr Mooney did not want to speak to her and was refused access to the house, both witnesses said that she had shouted in the letterbox: "I just want to be with you, Jim."

The most probable explanation of that visit was "a desperate attempt to advance or develop a romantic relationship" with Mr Mooney, the judge said. Her version of events was "wholly incredible", he said.

The judge also said he was satisfied she was not bullied by the principal at Tullamore College, Edward McEvoy, the school's vice principal, Helen Wilson or by Diarmuid O'Neill, CEO of Offaly VEC. Mrs O'Toole claimed that they had not properly investigated her complaints against Mr Mooney.

"I am quite satisfied that the VEC did everything it could to enable her to avail of the complaints procedure", the judge said, and "the fact that this was not pursed was entirely the result of her own own actions."

Irish Independent

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