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Teacher Breaks Down in Tears at Court Hearing to Avert Suspension

Irish Times, April 21, 2010

A TEACHER broke down in the High Court yesterday when giving evidence in his action resisting a bid to again suspend him after his lawyers withdrew from a new inquiry over 13-year-old sexual abuse allegations of which he was previously acquitted in criminal proceedings.

Patrick McGlinchey (57) had succeeded last year in overturning his 12-year suspension from his job at a special needs school under the terms of settlement of High Court proceedings which also provided for a new independent inquiry into that suspension.

Mr McGlinchey, who is married with children and lives in Newport, Tipperary, was suspended on pay in 1997 following allegations he abused a number of pupils in the school.

In 2002, he was acquitted of sex assault charges following a 19-day trial before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

After last year’s High Court settlement of his action seeking his reinstatement, a new inquiry with a Bar Council-appointed chairman opened in December last.

On the second day of that inquiry, following legal argument about the admissibility of evidence described by Mr McGlinchey’s lawyers as hearsay evidence, they declined to participate further in the inquiry. The school’s board of management said this amounted to a frustration of the inquiry and stated it was re-suspending Mr McGlinchey on pay.

He then brought High Court proceedings against the chairperson of the board seeking to prevent the fresh suspension and also seeking damages for mental distress caused by the entire 13-year affair.

He claimed the inquiry was unlawful because it sought to admit hearsay evidence, mainly videotapes of interviews with children made by social workers 13 years ago. No effort was made to call witnesses who would have shown the allegations were false, including teachers who had given evidence at his criminal trial which resulted in his acquittal, he said.

The school denies his claims and says Mr McGlinchey had failed to co-operate with the inquiry as required under last year’s High Court settlement.

Yesterday, Mr McGlinchey told the court the 13-year-old videotapes being offered as evidence were “rubbish”.

The school had not called as witnesses other people who had also been falsely accused of abusing some of the children, although they had not been suspended and their lives had not been “destroyed” as his had.

“I thought the whole idea [of the inquiry] was that after 12 years, we would get to the truth. I wanted to ask these young people why they said these things because the only other time I was asked about them was at my trial where I was acquitted.”

He also said minutes of a board of management meeting 13 years ago had been altered and, had this not happened, none of this would have arisen.

The court was adjourned briefly after Mr McGlinchey broke down crying uncontrollably and was comforted in the witness box by his wife.

Later, under cross-examination, Mr McGlinchey agreed the school intended to call 10 witnesses including the school principal, chairperson of the board, a consultant psychiatrist and the mother of one of the children who made the allegations.

Mr McGlinchey said he wanted to know why the child himself was not going to be called and why one of the first witnesses whom the inquiry sought to call concerned a child whose allegations he was specifically found not guilty of.

The case continues.