Legal challenge over school patronage decision

A secular schools body has brought a legal challenge over a decision that an education and training board should run a new primary school due to open in Co Cork next September.

Secular Schools Ireland Ltd (SSI), one of four applicants seeking to open the school in Carrigtwohill, says it was not afforded fair procedures before its application to become patron was rejected.

The Cork Education and Training Board (ETB) was chosen by the education minister to act as patron.

Gerard Humphreys, for SSI, was given leave on an ex parte (one side only represented) basis to bring judicial review proceedings against the minister, Ireland, and the attorney general over the decision.

SSI, set up to promote secular child-centred co-education, says it is seeking an order quashing the minister’s decision to refuse to consider its application for patronage of the new school.

The June 10, 2015, decision stated the application had been “deemed invalid”. It also seeks to quash the decision to award patronage of the school to the Cork ETB.

It says the minister had failed to afford SSI the opportunity to address the purported invalidity of its application or to address any concerns the Department of Education may have had.

Mr Humphreys said his client “effectively does not know the reason why it was refused”.

SSI met criteria under the Education Act 1998 for patronage requirements and had parents of 78 prospective pupils seeking to have SSI run the school, he said. Despite requests to be given a reason, the minister had failed to do so, counsel said.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said as the school was due to open in September, it was a matter which would have to be heard soon. He said it should come back before the court next week.

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