American fund donates $2.3m to Blackrock College
One of the country's elite private schools, Blackrock College, has received $2.3m (€1.77m) in grants from a US-based philanthropic organisation in the past five years, new figures show.
Figures provided by the American Ireland Fund (AIF) show that, in 2011 alone, the fee-paying school received $2.27m from the fund – far and away the highest grant to any school in the Irish school system from the AIF in 2011.
According to the AIF, the purpose of the 2011 grant was to assist Blackrock's development programme.
The AIF is part of the Ireland Funds, set up in 1976 by Sir Anthony O'Reilly and former US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney.
The AIF, which raised $23m (€17.7m) in 2011, confirmed that between 2008 and 2012 Blackrock received $2.3m in grants.
Last week, the AIF hosted an exclusive black-tie dinner in Washington where Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke.
Part of the Worldwide Ireland Funds, the AIF dedicates itself to supporting worthy causes in Ireland.
The contribution to Blackrock College accounted for 13pc of the AIF's total grants of €17.3m to organisations across the island of Ireland in 2011.
Confirmation of the grants coincides with a renewed debate over the funding of private schools by the exchequer.
Yesterday, AIF chief executive Kieran McLoughlin said: "It would be inaccurate to make a judgment of the fund's educational policy on the basis of one recipient.
"The fund supports a range of projects from major university capital programmes to access education programmes for those with special needs or from disadvantaged economic backgrounds."
Mr McLoughlin said that the AIF "does not just cater for one socio-economic group, but caters for all".
He said that the money received by Blackrock College in 2011 "was just one of 40 gifts made in the education sector by the AIF in 2011".
Mr McLoughlin cited the AIF's 'No Mind Left Behind' initiative that helps third-level students from challenging backgrounds, and the Music Generation Fund that was established three years ago with a €7m commitment from U2.
Mr McLoughlin added: "Blackrock College approached a number of prospective donors in the US, primarily past pupils, setting out the case for support.
Blackrock College, whose former pupils include Brian O'Driscoll and Bob Geldof, declined to comment.