Co Tyrone woman accused of theft by her Post Office bosses hoping to be cleared in court
A former Post Office manager from Co Tyrone who said she was wrongly forced to pay back £16,000 to her ex-employer has welcomed progress in a class action suit.
Deirdre Connolly (49) is one of 557 former village postmasters accused of stealing money who are fighting a court battle with the state-owned company.
She said she is now hopeful the group will be vindicated in the eyes of the law.
The workers claim a bug in a computer system caused accounting errors and left them obliged to balance the books with their own money, which the Post Office denies.
Yesterday it was reported that the Post Office has since spent £18m fighting - and losing - the case so far.
This includes a failed attempt to get trial judge Mr Justice Fraser recused from the case.
The Post Office said: "We are continuing to defend this complex litigation which is currently scheduled until March next year.
"We are not commenting in detail on live litigation outside of public court hearings."
Mrs Connolly told the Belfast Telegraph: "The Post Office is appealing (their losses in the case so far) and they're going to keep appealing it to the bitter end.
"But there's 557 of us in the group libel action and we're involved in every step of the way."
She said the ordeal has had a devastating effect on her health and family life.
"For me personally, what's happened has affected my whole family completely. My son tried to commit suicide and there were other challenges.
"To live in a rural area and to be accused of that is awful, the stigma sticks with you.
"That's why I'm involved in this legal action to try and clear my name. I feel very positive so far about the trial."
She said that family members had helped her to pay the £16,000 sum.
"You had to pay it back because as postmaster the buck stops with you, or so you're told," she said. "When you're put in a situation like that you'll do anything to pay the money back that they say was taken.
"Four different people had to help us out to get the money."
"Getting that money back is neither here nor there, it's about getting your reputation fixed.
"I also suffered from epilepsy because of the whole stress of it. It put pressure on my marriage and my whole family life completely changed."
Since she first spoke out about her experience last September, she also claimed that at least eight other Post Office workers had told her of similar experiences.
"They're putting money into their post offices, but because of the stigma, they will not come forward. There's no way to describe what they've put me and others through," she said.