Sexual harassment claim 'completely wrong', says teacher

A secondary school teacher has described a former colleague's claims that he sexually harassed and bullied her as "absolutely and completely wrong".

During his second day in the witness box Mr Jim Mooney, a teacher at Tullamore College had denied claims made by former colleague Mary O'Toole that he leered at, inappropriately touched and verbally insulted her between 1996 and 2000, and told the court that she had a crush on him.

Today under cross examination by counsel for Mrs O'Toole, John Peart SC, Mr Mooney denied claims that he had had been rude to Mrs O'Toole in company of other teachers, had put his hands on her bra strap on occasions in the staffroom.

He also denied her claim that on one occasion he had deliberately taken her pay cheque. He said that the cheque had been taken by mistake and he had apologised three times to her for taking it.

In proceedings against the Co Offaly VEC, Ms O'Toole (aged 48), a married mother of one, Whitehall Estate, Tullamore, alleges, that while employed with the defendant as a teacher at Tullamore College she was harassed, sexually harassed, and intimidated.

She claims the VEC was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her and caused her to suffer personal injuries and distress. Mrs O'Toole also claims she was driven to breaking point by Mr Mooney's alleged behaviour which had resulted in her cutting the tyres of his car, which she regretted.

She claims the VEC did nothing about her complaints and she had moved to another school in 2001. The VEC has denied the claims.

Today Mr Mooney, in reply to Mr Peart, rejected claims by Mrs O'Toole that he had exposed himself and tried to coerce her into oral sex at his home in May 1998. He accepted that that was a huge difference between his and Mrs O'Toole's version of the same events.

He said that following that incident in which a complaint was made by Mrs O'Toole against him in November 1998, shortly after she had damaged his car, another member of staff who was the school's TUI rep attempted to mediate the situation. The allegation, which he denied, he said was then withdrawn following that mediation.

Mr Mooney told counsel that he had no knowledge of Mrs O'Toole's claims that she withdrew that complaint at that stage because she was informed that she would be transferred to another school and would be sued by Mr Mooney.

He also told counsel that he believed the reason why official complaints, which were made by both him and by Mrs O'Toole in late 2000 early 2001, were not followed out because she was out sick and then legal proceedings were then initiated.

Mr Mooney also rejected counsel's assertion that his claims that Mrs O'Toole had, on separate occasions, in the school's staffroom pushed him and then punched him a few times were incorrect.

Mr Mooney accepted that he has brought defamation action against Mrs O'Toole, and that she has brought a counterclaim against him.

The case, which opened last month before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill, continues.

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