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Sunday 18 March 2018

Gardai to probe reports pupils 'handcuffed and beaten' on school trip


GARDAI have been asked to investigate allegations that a group of Dublin children were bullied and "abused" in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

Parents claim that a number of children were beaten and handcuffed by some of their classmates during a school trip to Annagry last month.

Thirty-nine pupils at Griffeen Valley Educate Together School in Lucan, west Dublin, went on the organised five-day trip to Donegal from May 20.

According to one parent, the children slept in one house while three accompanying teachers were in an adjoining property. Speaking on condition of anonymity, she said: "Over four days and four nights my son was subjected to assaults and abuse; he was dragged from his room, handcuffed, beaten, punched and kicked, had obscene things written on his arm, and this happened many times throughout the day."

When the children returned, she said she and around six other sets of parents sat in the school staff room to force an emergency meeting of the school's board of management.

It is understood that the school principal, Tomas O Dulaing, and its board of management immediately implemented the school's anti- bullying policy, which involved suspensions, professional mediation and support for pupils.

Some parents remained unhappy with the school's response and felt the mediation was not enough. "We feel bullying itself is a serious issue but this goes beyond that and what happened to my son is a serious criminal assault which should warrant an investigation separate to the board of management," said the parent.

She and other parents reported the matter to Lucan garda station but are waiting for a specialist liaison officer to be assigned to the case before statements can be taken from their children.

The school's board of management declined to comment in detail on the allegations. In a short statement, it said that it was "continuing its investigative process with the colaiste in the Gaeltacht, which will be completed in due course".

Meanwhile, the parents' concerns have been taken up by Derek Keating, the local Fine Gael TD, who has clashed with the school principal Mr O Dulaing in the past. Earlier this year, Mr Dulaing, a member of the United Left Alliance, accused the TD of "gross cynical opportunism" for claiming credit for delivering an extension to Griffeen Valley school. Mr Keating denied the claims and accused Mr Dulaing of having a "political agenda".

Mr Keating confirmed this weekend that he was contacted by "a number of distressed parents". He now has written on their behalf to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and plans to raise questions in the Dail this week.

"I confirm I have been contacted by a number of distressed parents resulting from events involving children who are reported to have been allegedly assaulted and abused while in Donegal in late May on a school-organised trip," he said.

"Following meetings with parents, I have concluded that an independent investigation is needed to ease the minds of children attending this wonderful school. This is a very serious issue and not just a schoolyard bullying incident."

Garda sources confirmed that reports of alleged abuse were made to Lucan garda station.

Irish Independent

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