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Teacher tells of 'shock' at her arrest in school arson probe

A SECONDARY school 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.

Gardai called to Mary O'Toole's home in 2001 and told her they were arresting her in connection with the fire which damaged Tullamore College where she and the man worked, she said. It was "like something out of a film", she said.

Mrs O'Toole said she had nothing to do with the fire and no charges were ever brought against her.

However she felt the school principal, Edward McEvoy, was behind her arrest arising out complaints that she was sexually harassed by her teacher colleague Jim Mooney.

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

She is suing the Co Offaly VEC claiming was it negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her and caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress. The claims are denied.


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

Yesterday, on the third day of the hearing, Mrs O'Toole told the court she was was detained for 12 hours at Tullamore Garda Station. While being questioned, she said that the gardai knew about her legal proceedings against the VEC over Mr Mooney's alleged behaviour.

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.

She referred the matter to the Garda Complaints Board and said she met a superintendent who told her a statement given by Mr McEvoy was pivotal in her arrest.

The case resumes on Tuesday.