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'I dropped sex case over fear for my career'

A SECONDARY school teacher told the High Court yesterday she withdrew an initial complaint about a male colleague she accuses of sexually harassing her because she feared for her job.

The court also heard Mary O'Toole's colleague, Jim Mooney, warned her in 1998 he would issue legal proceedings against her for harassment and "unwanted sexual advances" toward him.

On the fifth day of Mrs O'Toole's action against Offaly VEC, claiming it failed to protect her from Mr Mooney, she said she made a formal complaint about him following an incident in which she damaged his car.


Mrs O'Toole, a married mother of one, of Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, claims she was leered at, inappropriately touched and intimidated by Mr Mooney at Tullamore College on occasions between 1996 and 2000. The VEC has denied the claims.

Mrs O'Toole, who worked at Tullamore College between 1993 and 2001, said the formal complaint was made following meetings with the CEO of Offaly VEC Dermot O'Neill and college principal Edward McEvoy.

She said that she tried to raise the issue but Mr O'Neill did not want to discuss it.

In continuing cross-examination yesterday, she said she was advised by the school's then union representative, who is now deceased, that she should withdraw that complaint in January 1999. The union rep was a friend of Mr Mooney's, she said, and she withdrew the complaint because she feared for her career.

The court also heard that in early 2001, following another incident with Mr Mooney, she made a formal complaint against him to Mr McEvoy, who handed her a document about sexual harassment and gave her the names of two other teachers in the school appointed as part of the inquiry into the allegations.

However, she did not follow up on that process and legal proceedings were initiated. She told the court that at that time she was transferred to another school in 2001, which she did not want to be at, and suffered from medical problems.

She told the court she wanted the matter to "go away" and that she never wanted anything to "go legal", but had to do something to clear her name after she was arrested in connection with an arson attack on Tullamore College in 2001.

Mrs O'Toole also rejected claims that Mr Mooney had never leered at her or offered her lifts in his car.

She said that she was shocked and upset when she received a solicitor's letter sent on behalf of Mr Mooney in December 1998 warning that proceedings would be taken against her over her harassment of Mr Mooney and unwanted sexual advances towards him.

The case continues.