Friday 20 October 2017

Sleepy village wakes up to national storm

Kim Bielenberg and Barry Duggan

RESIDENTS of Borrisoleigh in Co Tipperary seemed oblivious yesterday to the fact their local secondary school, St Joseph's College, was at the centre of a national storm.

Although he was unnamed in a report by the Children's Ombudsman, Padraig O'Shea was the controversial school manager who turned away a 16-year-old girl because she was pregnant.

St Joseph's is a privately owned school founded by Mr O'Shea in 1978 following the closure that year of the Convent of Mercy school in the village.

As well as being the former principal he is also current owner and patron. He lives next to the school grounds. It was initially a school for girls only but has admitted boys since 1981.

Originally from Kerry, Mr O'Shea is described locally as a "disciplinarian''.

However, he was also given credit by some locals for keeping a secondary school open in the village.

For many years, the non-fee-paying school attracted students from a wide catchment area because of its high academic standards.

However, after peaking in the mid-1990s, numbers attending the school have declined.

An inspection report from 2007 suggested improvements to its admissions policy and safety standards.

Former pupils include Michael Lowry Junior, son of the former Fine Gael minister, and Tipperary hurlers Seamus Callanan and Brendan Maher.

Pregnancy

Michael Dwyer, the young Irishman shot dead by police in Bolivia in 2009, also attended the school.

Reacting to the controversy yesterday, Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents 400 voluntary secondary schools, said: "I don't know the details of this case, but pregnancy should never be a factor when making a decision to enrol a student.''

Irish Independent

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