Friday 15 November 2019

Fee-paying schools have the edge in battle for seats at the Cabinet table

THE majority of TDs in the Dail went to public secondary schools – but more than half of the Cabinet attended private schools.

A survey by the Irish Independent shows the education divide between backbenchers and ministers.

Although just 29 TDs attended fee-paying schools, they account for half of the jobs in Cabinet.

A private education is not a requirement for getting into Leinster House, with 83pc (137 TDs) going to non-fee schools.

But the 17pc of TDs with a private education is more than double the rate for the population as a whole.

By comparison, the 26,000 students currently in the country's 56 fee-paying schools represent just 7pc of the student population.

At 17, Fine Gael has the highest number of private school TDs. Perhaps surprisingly, Labour is next with five.


Privately educated TDs include Labour Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, a past pupil of Dublin's Blackrock College, and FG Transport Minster Leo Varadkar, who went to King's Hospital school in Palmerstown, Dublin.

Health Minister James Reilly attended St Conleth's in Ballsbridge, Catholic University School on nearby Leeson Street and Gormanston College, Co Meath.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald (FG) attended Sion Hill Convent in Blackrock at a time when it was charging fees.

Eight of the 15 Cabinet ministers went to fee-paying schools.

But this did not prevent them from imposing cutbacks on elite schools in the last two Budgets by increasing their pupil-teacher ratio.

In some cases, TDs attended boarding schools which have since become part of the free secondary education scheme.

Fianna Fail Cavan-Monaghan TD Brendan Smith said he boarded at St Camillus College in Killucan in Westmeath as it was the only place nearby he could do his Leaving Certificate. "My parents made huge sacrifices for me to go there," he said.

Labour Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore boarded at Garbally College in Ballinasloe, Co Galway on a scholarship. Justice Minister Alan Shatter attended the High School in Rathgar, which charges €5,150.

Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea, along with Fine Gael TDs Pat Deering and Billy Timmins, went to Patrician College boarding school in Ballyfin, Co Laois. It has since been amalgamated with two other schools into a non-fee paying community school.

Some 22 TDs having attended Christian Brothers schools. Socialist Party leader and Dublin West TD Joe Higgins attended the CBS in Dingle in Kerry, while Independent Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath went to Tuam CBS in Galway.

While a significant number of Dublin TDs attended secondary schools outside of the constituency they were elected in, most TDs in rural constituencies attended the local schools.

Dominican College secondary school for girls on Eccles Street in Dublin educated two politicians with a rebel streak.

Labour's Roisin Shortall quit as junior minister after a row with Health Minister Dr Reilly. Fine Gael's Olivia Mitchell took part in the failed party heave against Enda Kenny two years ago.

Among the current Cabinet, those who went to fee-paying schools include Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who went to Clongowes in Kildare and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who went both to Belvedere College in Dublin and Clongowes.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald went to Notre Dame Des Missions in Churchtown on Dublin's southside, which currently charges fees of €4,150 a year.

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd-Barrett attended St Michael's College on Ailesbury Road in Dublin 4, which charges €4,875. He is often reminded of this in the Dail by Fine Gael Dublin South East TD Eoghan Murphy, who also went there.

Labour Kerry North TD Arthur Spring was sent to the Cistercian College in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, like his uncle Dick, who is a former Labour leader and Tanaiste.

Others who went there include Fianna Fail'sBarry Cowen and his brother, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, as well as Fine Gael Sligo-North Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin.

Dublin South TD Shane Ross described how he cried leaving his family to go to Rugby boarding school in England. He feels his parents made the wrong decision in sending him away.

Labour Dublin Mid-West TD Robert Dowds, who went on a scholarship to King 's Hospital, said he was one of only four day pupils at the boarding school. "It was my least happy educational experience," he said.

Irish Independent

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