Sunday 18 March 2018

Principal 'hurt' by Traveller boy's discrimination claim

Conor Kane

A SCHOOL principal has said he was "very hurt" at accusations of discrimination after a Traveller boy was excluded from enrolling.

The High School in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, is appealing a decision made last year by the Equality Tribunal.

It found that John Stokes (13) suffered indirect discrimination when he failed to gain a place at the secondary school for September 2010.

Judgment in the appeal at Clonmel Circuit Court is expected on July 4, after evidence was heard in court yesterday.

One of 179 applicants for 140 first-year places for that year, John Stokes fulfilled the criteria that he was a Roman Catholic and had attended one of 17 designated feeder schools.

However, he didn't meet the requirement that a sibling or his father had attended the High School and, following a lottery involving a number of such applicants, didn't get a place at the school.

After a case was taken by his mother Mary Stokes, backed by the Irish Traveller Movement, the Equality Tribunal found in the teenager's favour.

It supported his argument that, as Travellers were less likely than settled people to have attended secondary school when John's father was growing up, he was indirectly discriminated against by the school.

"I was very disappointed that John didn't get a place in the High School," Mary Stokes said.

High School principal Shay Bannon said that, in all but two years since he joined the school in 1991, there were more applications than there were first-year places.

They used the "parent rule" and "sibling rule" because involving past-pupils helped to build the school's ethos, he said.

"There's normally between 20 and 25 applicants who don't get in," he said. "You can imagine the effect on a child of 12, telling them they're a failure or different to everyone else. It's nuts. The whole system is absolutely nuts."

Asked how he felt about being accused of discriminating against the Travelling community, he replied: "Very hurt. And I don't think it's true. We open our doors to all students."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News