Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Dismayed but not defeated' - rights group reacts to ruling

David Joyce, legal adviser for the Irish Traveller Movement, outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
David Joyce, legal adviser for the Irish Traveller Movement, outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Sam Griffin and Charlotte Ni Luing

The group representing the family of a Traveller who had appealed his discrimination case to the Supreme Court said they were "dismayed" by yesterday's judgment.

However, a spokesperson for the Irish Traveller Movement vowed to continue to highlight the fact that Traveller children are disadvantaged by the "parent rule" in schools around the country.

Speaking outside the Four Courts in Dublin after the ruling, the movement's director Brigid Quilligan said: "We are dismayed by the judgment but not defeated.

"Mary and John Stokes were undeterred in pursuing this case which provided a test platform for the reform of schools' enrolment policies, which could improve equality of entry for Travellers and for non-Irish national students who were unfairly disadvantaged by the rule."

The case related back to 2010 when John Stokes did not qualify for a place under the "parent rule" operated by the Christian Brothers' High School in Clonmel because none of his family had attended the school. He was then unsuccessful in winning a place through the school's lottery scheme.

His family appealed to the Equality Tribunal, which found the boy had been discriminated against.

However, this was later overturned by the Circuit Court and upheld by the High Court before the case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Yesterday, the court ruled that insufficient evidence had been put before previous hearings and it was therefore not possible to carry out a proper analysis.

Ms Quilligan said she had not expected that navigating the legislation, which seeks to protect Travellers as a remedy to discrimination through the court process, "would make those remedies untenable".

She also said that in the decade that John's father attended school, only half of all Traveller children of school going age attended school. "So therefore John Stokes and many other Traveller children on a national basis are statistically disadvantaged by the parent rule," she said.

The school's board of management welcomed the court's decision. It said: "Our school operates an inclusive admissions policy and continues to welcome all applicants for enrolment from all sections of society."

Irish Independent

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