05 Jul 2022

Tullamore teacher facing six figure legal costs

A TULLAMORE teacher who took a case against the VEC is facing paying legal costs after losing her case.

A TULLAMORE teacher who took a case against the VEC is facing paying legal costs after losing her case.

Mary O’Toole’s claim that she was bullied and sexually harassed by a male colleague was dismissed recently by a High Court judge as “not credible”. The male colleague, Jim Mooney, had denied Mrs O’Toole’s claims, alleging she had pursued him including on one occasion when she shouted in the letterbox of his house: “I just want to be with you.”

Mrs O’Toole had sued County Offaly Vocational Education Committee, claiming she was the victim of “a campaign” of bullying and harassment by Mr Mooney, a colleague at Tullamore College.

In his reserved judgment, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill found there was no sexual harassment or bullying on Mr Mooney’s part directed against Mrs O’Toole.

The Judge accepted Mrs O’Toole had romantically pursued Mr Mooney who, on each occasion, rejected her advances. Prior to November 1998, shortly after Mr Mooney “unequivocally rejected” Mrs O’Toole, she made no complaint about him to the VEC, the judge noted. He found the VEC had no liability in the case.

Mrs O’Toole from Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, had claimed that while she was a teacher at Tullamore College, she was “harassed, sexually harassed and intimidated.” She 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 admitted damaging Mr Mooney’s car in 1998 but denied pursuing him. In her action, she claimed the VEC was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her. The VEC denied her claims.

At the High Court last Friday Judge O’Neill awarded costs of the action, which ran for several weeks, against Ms O’Toole, a figure which is thought could run to six figures.

Mr Justice O’Neill also described a letter from Ms O’Toole’s husband, Eamonn as “not appropriate” and therefore he did not read it.

John Peart SC, for Ms O’Toole, said he was unaware that the letter had been sent and said it should not have been. Both sides “were in agreement” that Mr O’Toole’s letter was “of no assistance to the court”.

Judge O’Neill described the allegations that Mrs O’Toole had made against her former colleague and officers of the VEC as “very serious.”

He placed a stay on the order for 21 days to allow Mrs O’Toole time to appeal his decision if she so wished.

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