Principal receives apology over false claim on removal of prefab
A SCHOOL principal is to receive substantial damages after an apology to him was read at the High Court yesterday over false allegations that he had had a prefab building moved from a Co Meath school to his home without payment or permission.
John Hand, principal of St Oliver Plunkett’s National School, Navan, Co Meath, from 1997 to 2010 and now principal of a school in Bandon, Co Cork, had sued Declan McKeever, a farmer, Antylstown, Navan, for defamation.
Mr Hand had bought the prefab with his own funds from a supplier to use it for storage while extension works were being carried out at his home at Donaghmore Lane, Navan, the court heard.
It was claimed Mr McKeever had falsely alleged he, at Mr Hand’s direction, had used his own machinery to move the prefab from the school into the grounds of Mr Hand’s house. It was claimed this was done without the knowledge or permission of the board of management and without any payment having been made for the structure.
About two months later, following what was believed to be an objection to the prefab, Mr McKeever moved it to the rear of the house, it was also alleged.
In his defence to the proceedings, Mr McKeever denied his allegations meant, among other things, that Mr Hand was guilty of a criminal act and dishonesty.
On the fourth day of the case before Mr Justice Eamon de Valera and a jury yesterday, Patrick MacEntee SC (with Frank Callanan SC), for Mr Hand, said the matter had been settled and an apology was to be read out by Mr McKeever’s counsel.
Gerry Danaher SC, for Mr McKeever, said his client accepted great injury was done to Mr Hand and he apologised. He was to be paid “substantial damages” and costs, the apology stated.
In his action, Mr Hand said he was the subject of several disciplinary charges brought against him in 2008 by the single manager of St Oliver’s, Fr Brendan Ludlow, the most serious of which related to the moving of the prefab.
This allegation was wholly false because Mr Hand had in December 2001 bought a prefab with €1,750 of his own money to use it as a store while he was carrying out extension works to his home, it was claimed.
Mr Hand had bought the structure because he had become acquainted with a supplier of prefabs to the school. The prefab in question was unsuitable for use as a classroom because of its size and accessibility, it was claimed.
The prefab was delivered by another person, not Mr McKeever, to his home but later had to be transferred from the gable side of his house to his back garden by Mr McKeever, who was asked do so as a personal favour, he said.