independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Private school gets PR firm to lobby TD on cuts

ONE of the country's most exclusive fee-paying schools is using a PR firm to lobby TDs against cutting the state subsidy to private schools.

St Andrew's College in Booterstown, Dublin, is using Dublin-based PR firm Paul White and Associates to contact TDs who support reducing the €100m given to private schools.

In an email, Mr White says: "I am a communications consultant and one of my clients is St Andrew's College."

However, both Mr White and the school claim he is representing the school for free, and Mr White says his daughter is a pupil in St Andrew's.

The email was sent to Meath East Labour TD Dominic Hannigan, who had been speaking about the subsidy on television and radio programmes.

"We have noted, with some concern, some of the comments made by some deputies relating to fee-paying schools and the state subvention," it reads.

"We have reflected on the matter and believe that we have a number of valid points to make concerning some of these comments.

"In short we believe that only part of the economic/commercial aspects of the matter have been publicised.

"We would welcome the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss the matter and our concerns."

It is signed off "Paul White, White and Associates" and includes the company's contact information.

Arthur Godsil, St Andrew's principal, also said no money had changed hands. Annual fees for the school are €6,200.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is considering reducing to the subsidy as part of budget cutbacks, and numerous Labour TDs and ministers are in favour of such a cut.

Erupted

Mr Quinn's department has carried out an audit of the payments to 55 private schools, and the controversy first erupted last month when Labour junior minister Alan Kelly said "the days of being able to give €96m-€100m to private schools is going to come to an end". It led to some Fine Gael TDs defending private schools. Some claimed reducing the subsidy would close some schools, and the State would pick up the tab.

While acknowledging that Mr White said he was not paid, Mr Hannigan said he had been contacted by state schools who had to do their own lobbying.

"On Monday I had a principal of a state school in with me at 8pm, in his own time, asking about cuts to his school," Mr Hannigan said.

"They don't have PR companies to represent them."

Irish Independent

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