Monday 23 July 2018

Ross denies wielding influence as critics call foul over €150,000 school sports grant

Shane Ross
Shane Ross
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Sports Minister Shane Ross has insisted he played no part in awarding a €150,000 sports grant from his department to fee-paying Wesley College.

News of the grant to the affluent school in Ballinteer, in Mr Ross's constituency, caused outrage as critics pointed out public schools which desperately need funding for sports facilities have missed out.

Some 30 public schools were turned down in the grant process.

Cathaoirleach of the Edenderry councillors, Co Offaly, Noel Bourke said that local school St Mary's had applied for a grant under the scheme but did not get it.

"I was very disappointed. I've looked at the facilities that Wesley have and it's not fair. They seem to have all kinds of facilities," he told the Irish Independent.

"They get a grant while a school like St Mary's, which is a great school, not a fee-paying school but has very little sports facilities, doesn't.

"We need to have a more transparent system."

The Wesley grant caused controversy after Mr Ross welcomed the news.

"Delighted to confirm that Wesley College has been granted €150,000 as part of the Sports Capital Programme. The funding will ensure the resurfacing of the hockey pitch, and will benefit the school as well as the YMCA Hockey Club," he wrote on March 9.

Speaking yesterday on RTÉ Radio One, Mr Ross said that while he was delighted for Wesley College to get the grant, he wasn't involved in the process.

"What happened in this case, was that the application was refused and I signed off on that. I had nothing to do with it apart from signing off on it.

"Then there was an appeal and I signed off on that.

"There was no alteration, no political decision, not one movement of money, sum or individual.

"I never made a representation to the officials," he said.

The principal of a public girls' school in Dublin, which is waiting for grant funding to fix a leaking sports hall roof, also spoke of her shock on learning Wesley was given a grant.

Mary Daly, head of St Dominic's College, in Ballyfermot, said the roof had been damaged for years, but despite submitting grant applications, funding to repair it had never been forthcoming.

She questioned how a fee-paying school could receive such a large grant of public money, given it is already well funded.

"They already have fantastic resources," she said.

"I was shocked because they have more than adequate facilities."

Ms Daly said her school applied, with the Department of Education, for works to the roof over the 2016/2017 summer break but it has not yet been granted.

"It wasn't seen as a priority," she said.

St Dominic's is a DEIS (Delivering Equal Opportunity in Schools) institution and Ms Daly said she felt there wasn't a level playing field.

"We want to promote a holistic education for the girls, which includes an interest in sports," she said.

Irish Independent

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