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' I was made to feel like a bit of meat'

A TEACHER has told the High Court she was sexually harassed and bullied over a four-year period by a male colleague.

Mary O'Toole claims fellow teacher Jim Mooney leered at her, inappropriately touched her, subjected her to verbal insults and demeaned her on several occasions between 1996 and 2000 at Tullamore College Secondary School, Offaly.

She claims her employers, Offaly VEC, did nothing about her complaints about Mr Mooney and in 2001 she moved to another school.

Mrs O'Toole told the court that in the staffroom, Mr Mooney would put his hands on her back and rub her. On occasions, when she was walking home from school, he drove past her in his car and called out "would you like a ride Mary" with a grin on his face.

She said that due to this, she would not leave the school building until he had driven off. She said that she "felt like a piece of meat" and that Mr Mooney's behaviour was "arrogant", made her uncomfortable, and was "very inappropriate."

The court also heard that she was driven to breaking point by Mr Mooney's alleged behaviour which resulted in her cutting the tyres of his car, something she regretted.

Her claims are denied by the VEC. Mr Mooney is not a party to the case.

Mrs O'Toole (48), a teacher of history, geography and english, of Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, Offaly, has brought a personal injuries action against Offaly VEC. She claims the VEC was negligent and in breach of their duty of care towards her, caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress and failed to provide a safe place of work.

Incidents

John Peart, for Mrs O'Toole, said that his client's claim was that there was "a campaign" of bullying and harassment by Mr Mooney. This "was known by the school authorities" who "didn't help her" and instead appeared "to take the side of the bully", counsel said.

There were a number of incidents over the four years when he leered at and was rude to her, counsel said.

During one social occasion attended by teachers at the school, he allegedly said to her that "all women are stupid", and that she (O'Toole) "was stupid and your mother is stupid too."

Counsel said that on another social occasion, Mrs O'Toole, in an attempt to sort out things between them, asked Mr Mooney if they could be friends. He replied they "could not be friends without having sex".

The case continues.

hnews@herald.ie


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