Teacher dismissed in 2002 has damages claim struck out due to delay in bringing action to trial

By Ann O'Loughlin

A damages claim brought against the Minister for Education, the State and the board of management of a Donegal secondary school by a former teacher who was dismissed from his job in 2002 has been struck out at the High Court.

The board of management of Carndonagh Community School and the Minister asked the court to have proceedings brought by Mr PJ McGarry struck out due to the "inordinate and inexcusable" delay by him in bringing his action against them to trial.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Tony O'Connor said he was satisfied to strike out the case due to the delays involved.

The board of management and the State defendants would be prejudiced far more than Mr McGarry if the case was allowed to proceed, the judge held.

Mr McGarry, who represented himself, had opposed the applications.

He accepted there was an inordinate delay in advancing his action, which was commenced in 2003, but that the delay was excusable.

The court heard in 1998 Mr McGarry, a teacher of Agricultural Science and Biology who commenced work at the school in 1980, was suspended with pay from his teaching job with pay.

It was alleged that Mr McGarry, of Sligo Road, Ballina, Co Mayo refused to teach classes he had been timetabled. He claims he was suspended because he had raised several issues about the school.

In July 2002 he was dismissed from the school.

He sued the board of management and the Minister, who he says was his employer seeking damages for what he claims was his wrongful dismissal, and for alleged harassment.

The claims were denied and it was contended the case should be dismissed for a want of prosecution due to the lengthy delay in advancing the claim.

Mr McGarry said the delay was caused by factors including a breakdown in his relationship with solicitors who had acted for him and by the manner in which the Minister had investigated his suspension between 1998 and 2003.

In his judgement Mr Justice O Connor said while Mr McGarry's sense of grievance for his own and the public's position may remain, he was responsible, either directly or vicariously for the significant delays in prosecuting these proceedings.

After considering all the relevant material presented to the court the judge said he was of the view Mr McGarry had the ability to have his grievances heard and determined within a reasonable time.

It was not for this court to make any comments on his claims, but when it came to considering the balance of justice the court was satisfied to order that the case be struck out.

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