Teacher threw principal to ground in after-school homework club row

Wednesday 13 February 2013 18.05
Teacher threw principal to ground in homework row

A teacher who threw his principal to the ground by her hair in a row over an after-school homework club in Athlone has avoided a jail sentence.

Máire Ní Murchú accepted an ex-gratia payment of €2,000 in the District Court in Athlone after the judge indicated to the defendant he was not going to jail.

The court heard how Micháel Pleamoinn, 41, from Barley Fields, Bealnamullia, approached acting headmistress, Ms Ní Murchú, at the Gaelscoil in Athlone on 14 September 2011 to present his plan for an after-school homework club.

However, when Ms Ní Murchú suggested she would have to run it past the board of management first, Pleamoinn became "very angry, and started shouting at her", according to Inspector Nicholas Farrell.

"Do you want me to go over the edge? What are you trying to do to me? If I end up in jail, don't come running to me," the defendant was quoted as shouting at his victim.

"He then grabbed her by the hair with both hands, and threw her violently to the floor," said the Inspector.

In her evidence, Ms Ní Murchu, a smaller person than her assailant, told how she had subsequently been off work for six months after the incident, and had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pleamoinn's solicitor Dara Robinson, declined to cross-examine, saying: "I don't want to add to the obvious suffering of the victim."

"There's a clear backdrop of irrationality, but there was no use of a weapon, no use of a fist, no use of a boot," he added in mitigation for his client.

He described Pleamoinn as "an extremely well-regarded teacher for a decade-and-a-half", before handing in a psychiatric report to Judge Seamus Hughes for his perusal over lunch.

"This is clearly a man with an unblemished life, but who has suffered acute stress at various points in life. You are not a danger to the public generally, and I get the distinct impression this episode has caused extreme distress to you," said the judge on his return.

Having earlier indicated to the defendant he was not going to jail, he then asked Ms Ní Murchú if she was willing to accept the €2,000 ex-gratia payment and she said she would.

The case was adjourned for a week to allow Pleamoinn gather this sum.