THE Bishop of Killaloe has been asked to intervene after a “septic relationship” developed between some parents and the principal of a small West Clare primary school. Dr Kieran O’Reilly has been asked to mediate on issues at Labasheeda National School, details of which were aired at Kilrush District Court on Tuesday.
Martin Tubridy (55), with an address at Quarry Vale, Mounthshannon, Labasheeda, was found guilty of assault causing harm to Liam Woulfe at the school on December 9, 2011. Mr Tubridy, a father of two, denied the charge.
The court heard that Mr Tubridy punched Mr Woulfe in the face after complaining about the treatment of his son. The court heard that some parents had withdrawn their children from the school because of alleged disputes with Mr Woulfe.
Judge Patrick Durcan said this was a case where there were “no winners”. He said, “I want to say how saddened I am to see such divisions in Labasheeda over a septic relationship between the two parties.” He said he found the entire episode “distressing” and warned that the dispute threatens the future of the school and the local community. Judge Durcan added, “I know this kind of thing can sound the deathknell for a school and the deathknell for a school is a deathknell for the local community.”
Mr Woulfe, who has been principal of the school for 17 years, said Mr Tubridy drove to the school after hours on the date in question. The court heard that Mr Woulfe had been talking to another parent in a classroom at the time. Mr Woulfe said he went out to Mr Tubridy and asked if he could come back to meet him again. He said Mr Tubridy told him he had put his son outside of the classroom and that he (Mr Woulfe) had been “at him all week”.
Mr Woulfe said, “He struck me and hit me in the face.” He added,“I recoiled back into the classroom. I was obviously shocked and dazed.”
The court heard that Mr Woulfe suffered a swollen nose, black eye and a broken tooth as a result of the assault. His injuries were disputed by defence solicitor Patrick Moylan who said they had not been noted in a dental report handed into court. Mr Moylan said Mr Woulfe had exaggerated the extent of his injuries.
Mr Moylan said in court that parents had withdrawn their children because it had been alleged that Mr Woulfe had behaved in an “aggressive” manner towards them.
The court also heard that Mr Tubridy’s wife made a complaint to the office of the Bishop of Killaloe.
Mr Woulfe admitted issues had arisen in his dealings with the Tubridys. He described their behaviour in a previous meeting as “aggressive and over the top”. He said that 2011 had been a “difficult year” at the school.In his evidence, Mr Tubridy denied this and said it was Mr Woulfe who behaved in an aggressive fashion. Mr Woulfe denied Mr Tubridy’s version of events.
Parent Caroline O’Shea, who was in the school at the time, told the court she saw the assault. Mr Tubridy said she could not have seen what happened as the glass on the classroom door is opaque. He claimed Mr Woulfe grabbed him by the back of the neck and he reacted by pushing him away. He told the court that he drove to the school to meet Mr Woulfe because his son was very upset.
Judge Patrick Durcan said there had been “bad blood” between the parties. He said he did not accept Mr Tubridy’s version of events, describing it as “improbable.” Judge Durcan said he accepted Mr Woulfe’s and Ms O’Shea’s evidence. He adjourned the case for just over an hour to allow for discussions between the parties.
On the resumption of the case, Supt Gerard Wall told the court that Mr Tubridy had offered a “full and unconditional” apology to Mr Woulfe.
Judge Durcan said he accepted a proposal to invite Dr O’Reilly to mediate on the matter. He adjourned the case until April 9, 2013 and ordered Mr Tubridy to pay €400 compensation to Mr Woulfe and Ms O’Shea.