Principal says complaints are part of an agenda

A Co Limerick-based secondary school principal claims an investigation into complaints against him, including that he stared and winked at a co-worker, are part of an agenda to have him removed from his post.

Principal says complaints are part of an agenda

Noel Malone, head teacher at Coláiste Chiaráin, Croom, Co Limerick, has brought High Court proceedings against the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (ETB), which runs the co-educational school.

John Hennessy, senior counsel for Mr Malone, told the court his client has been suspended on payarising out of two complaints, made in July and September 2014.

The complaints are that a teacher at the school allegedly taught one of Mr Malone’s children on a one-to-one basis as part of that teacher’s contracted 22 weekly hours. The other complaint was that another teacher at the school alleged he was “stared at”, “smiled at”, and “winked at” by Mr Malone at “an event outside of the school”.

Counsel said his client said the complaints are “utterly baseless, false, and malicious”. He says there is an agenda to get rid of him as principal of the 900-pupil school. Mr Malone has brought proceedings seeking various orders and declarations including an order preventing the ETB from continuing its investigation into the complaints.

He also seeks declarations his purported suspension by the board’s CEO, and a direction that he stay away from the school and not contact any staff members, are null, void, have no effect, and are unlawful. Should any disciplinary process be allowed to proceed, he further seeks an order he is entitled to an oral hearing where he can challenge any complainant or any witness in support of any complaint against him.

The Limerick and Clare ETB has opposed the case.

The ETB, represented by Feichin McDonagh senior counsel, rejects all of Mr Malone’s claims including he has been denied fair procedures or natural justice, that it delayed in bringing a quick resolution to the process or it has breached Mr Malone’s rights. It also says Mr Malone delayed in bringing his action against it.

Mr Hennessy said following the complaints, his client was put on administrative leave by the ETB. Counsel said the client is unhappy with the manner and speed at which the investigative process is being conducted. He had asked for the investigation to be concluded as quickly as possible, but that has not happened because the ETB has delayed in investigating the allegations.

In the meantime, his client has suffered from health problems. He was assessed by a doctor for the ETB in early 2015 and was deemed unfit to engage with his employers. Counsel said because of that, the investigation process was suspended. Had the investigation taken place much sooner, Mr Malone would have been able to fully participate in the process.

Counsel said it was Mr Malone’s case the investigation is now so fundamentally flawed due to the delay between July 2014 and April 2015, it should not be allowed to proceed.

The action before Mr Justice Paul McDermott continues.

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