Athlone District Court

Teacher attacked principal in Athlone primary school

A 41-year-old teacher was in court in Athlone yesterday (Wednesday) over an assault in which he pulled his school's acting principal to the ground by her hair. Micháel Pleamoinn of Barleyfields, Bealnamulla, Athlone, was teaching at the Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí Gaelscoil in the town when he assaulted its acting principal, Máire Ní Murchú. Inspector Nicholas Farrell told the court that Mr Pleamoinn had been speaking to Ms Ní Murchú in his classroom at 1pm on September 14, 2011. He had a proposal relating to a homework club at the school and Ms Ní Murchú told him she would have to run this idea past the school's board of management. The defendant then became agitated and told Ms Ní Murchú that she wasn't supporting him. "What are you trying to do to me? Are you trying to push me over the edge? How far do you want me to go?" he said. "Why don't you go back to the board and ask them to sack me?" Mr Pleamoinn grabbed the acting principal by the wrists before putting his two hands on her head and pulling her "violently" to the ground by her hair, Inspector Farrell said. Ms Ní Murchú was screaming and ran out of the classroom. She reported the incident to the deputy principal and both the Gardai and the chairperson of the board of management were called to the school. The defendant admitted assaulting Ms Ní Murchú , causing her harm. The victim told the court that some of her hair had been pulled out during the incident. She was off work for six months afterwards and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. The defendant, who had no history of criminal behaviour and apologised to Ms Ní Murchú during the court hearing, was suspended from work immediately. He received psychiatric treatment following the incident and has not been back to work since. After reading reports which were given to him in relation to Mr Pleamoinn, Judge Seamus Hughes said the defendant had led "an unblemished life" up to this and there was no doubt that he deeply regretted this "unprovoked, serious assault." Mr Pleamoinn was "an eminently qualified teacher" and the judge hoped that he would be able to resume teaching "in this or another school." The defendant is to make a €2,000 ex-gratia payment to Ms Ní Murchú as a gesture of his remorse. The case is due to be finalised on Wednesday next, and Judge Hughes indicated that, once the €2,000 payment was made, he would impose "a very lenient sentence" of "a fine or lesser" on Wednesday.