Application by Bishopstown school dismissed

A HIGH Court challenge against the Education Minister for refusing to decide on an application that an all girls primary school be officially allowed enrol boys and be recognised as a gaelscoil has been dismissed.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill dismissed the application brought by former members of the board of management and parents at the 45-pupil Scoil Naomh Therese in Bishopstown, Cork.

They had sought orders compelling the Minister for Education and Science, Ireland and theAttorney General to make a decision in respect of its application for recognition as both a gaelscoil and a co-educational school.

They were also seeking declarations that it is not a precondition that permission of the school’spatron, the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley (a notice party in the action) be obtained to recognise the school as co-educational or that it teaches its subjects through Irish.

In 2000, the school began to enrol boys. There are 45 pupils in the school and 15 are boys.

Last December the bishop informed the chairperson of the board of management he had no objection to the school operating as a Scoil Lán Ghaelach (gaelscoil) and was willing to allow the boys currently enrolled in the school to complete their primary education there. However, consent for a co-educational school was not given. The minister, who opposed the action, said he would not consider the application because any change of the school’s status required the consent of the patron of the church-owned school.

The proceedings arose from two applications by the then board of management in 2004 to the minister for recognition as both a co-educational school and a Gaelscoil.

The judge held the minister had not acted unreasonably or unlawfully by not making a determination in relation to the school’s change of status. Any change could only occur if consent was granted by the patron.

He said the change being sought would fundamentally and permanently alter the nature of the school and how it is run. The consent of the bishop, as the person who has the permanent interest in the school, was appropriate.

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