http://www.independent.ie/national-news ... 82657.html
School principal gripped by cabin fever starts afresh
By Phillip Ryan
Sunday July 29 2012
John Hand was forced to quit his head-teacher job after a neighbour falsely accused him of stealing, writes Phillip Ryan
WHEN primary school principal John Hand bought a prefab for storage during the renovation of his house, he did not think he would lose his job nine years later.
Similarly, his neighbour Declan McKeever, did not think he would be down €500,000 when he told Saint Oliver Plunkett National School in Meath that he delivered the prefab from the school to Mr Hand's home in Navan.
Four years later, while visiting his mother, Mr McKeever runs in to his third cousin and patron of Saint Oliver Plunkett school, Bishop Michael Smith.
In testimony given during Mr Hand's school disciplinary hearing, Mr McKeever said the bishop had asked him if he had removed the prefab from the school and brought it to the principal's home.
Mr McKeever said: "Bishop Smith, he asked me directly, he says: 'Did you move a cabin out to John Hand's house?'
"I said: 'I did.' And after that he said: 'I don't want to know anything more.
"It's going to be the priest in the parish that will talk about it, okay'."
School manager Father Brendan Ludlow launched an inquiry into the alleged theft, and the allegation that Mr Hand transferred four children to a school where his wife was principal so they would not lose a teacher because of classroom quotas.
In April 2009, Mr Hand sought a High Court injunction preventing the school from issuing disciplinary proceedings against him in relation to the prefab and the pupil transfer.
Mr Hand admitted to the pupil transfer charge in court but said the pupil's parents agreed to the move and he did not believe he had broken any rules.
The courts ruled against him that December, and the following July a full disciplinary hearing was carried out by Fr Ludlow.
During the hearing Mr McKeever was questioned extensively by both the school and the principal's legal teams about the prefab and his conversation with Bishop Smith.
The court heard earlier this month that the school and Cabinpac carried out an audit prior to the disciplinary proceedings and found there were no missing prefabs.
Mr Hand also produced the receipt for the prefab during the disciplinary hearing.
However, Fr Ludlow was unequivocal in his ruling and called the principal's suggestion of conspiracy between Mr McKeever and Bishop Smith "quite extraordinary" and "utterly incredible".
He added: "I have been given no credible reason as to why Mr McKeever would simply make up or fabricate the evidence he gave ... I am quite satisfied that the account given by Mr McKeever is credible."
The priest ruled that Mr Hand's position was "untenable" and in September 2010 the principal resigned from the school where he had worked for 13 years.
Asked this week why he relied wholly on Mr Keever's testimony, Fr Ludlow said: "I can understand where you are coming from but I am precluded from commenting by the terms of agreement at the time of the hearing."
Bishop Smith declined to comment on the case or the conversation he had with Mr McKeever in the farmer's mother's home.