‘It’s one of those things ... anybody can make a mistake’

“They said on the radio we were a sleepy little place.”

A customer was engaged at the checkout of Shanahan’s Centra in Borrisoleigh with a neighbour as the community yesterday morning began to square up to the controversy which had placed the small north Tipp town (population circa 2,000) near the top of the day’s national news list.

Whatever about the decision of local school owner, manager and patron Pádraig O’Shea to refuse enrolment to a pregnant teenager at his privately owned St Joseph’s College, nobody was going public against the man regarded as a community “figurehead”.

But the widely held “don’t quote me” view was that the veteran Kerry-born educationalist got it wrong, this once. One man said: “He’s done a huge amount for this town and the people. Anybody can make a mistake.”

Centra owner Sean Shanahan said: “I hope it does not hang over the community like a shadow. People here are very fair and broadminded.”

Mr Shanahan said his two sons had gone through the school and had good jobs due to the education they got there. His daughter was now in first year.

There was a very good education on offer at St Joseph’s, he said, and this was borne out by the number of students travelling to St Joseph’s from a wide catchment area.

Another man standing outside Chadwicks fuel suppliers said only for Mr O’Shea, all local secondary school students would have to travel to Templemore.

He said: “The convent secondary school was for girls and boys have to travel to Templemore after primary school. When Pádraig came (in 1978) he opened his school to boys and girls.”

The man said his children went to the school and did well.

“The school has a high reputation and has been extremely successful,” he said.

Asked about the refusal to allow a pregnant teenager join the school, another man, who also asked not to be named said: “It is one of those things, it was his personal management decision on how he runs the school.

“He has been here a long time and it’s a pity something like this crops up. Anybody can make a mistake.”

Some former students having soup and sandwiches in Finn’s — one of the town’s four surviving pubs — gave a clear impression that Pádraig O’Shea ran a disciplined school and there was no messing tolerated.

On a wet and windy day, despite the media spotlight, Borrisoleigh had other pressing matters on its mind.

Those working at the main source of employment, Tipperary Spring Water, were hoping for a fine, thirsty summer and more work to keep the orders flowing.


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