Tuesday 23 April 2019

Moynihan calls for overhaul of leaving cert appeals process

Education Minister reveals Rebecca Carter case cost state almost €70,000 in legal fees

Bill Browne

A Cork TD has called for an overhaul of the Leaving Certificate appeals mechanism after it emerged one high-profile case last year cost the State almost €70,000.

Cork North West Fianna Fail TD Michael Moynihan has said the current appeals process was" deeply flawed "and that revising it would result in huge savings for the State. 

Deputy Moynihan's comments came after he raised the issue of Rebecca Carter's appeal with Education Minister Joe McHugh in the Dáil, asking how much it had cost his Department and the agencies under its remit. 

Ms Carter from Castlebridge in Co Wexford last year took her case to the High Court after she discovered that the outcome of her appeal against a grade in her Business Leaving Cert paper would come too late for UCD to admit her into its veterinary medicine degree programme. 

Her paper was subsequently upgraded, resulting in her achieving the points tally required to take up the course. 

Ruling in Ms Carter's favour, Mr Justice Humphreys said the current system current system was highly unfair to students and not fit for purpose  and that he wanted to see it changed. He also awarded Ms Carter the costs of the action.

In reply to Deputy Moynihan's parliamentary question, a statement from Minister McHugh revealed that the legal cost to the State Examination Commission (SEC) resulting from Ms Carter's appeal had totalled €69,265.44 and had been paid in full. 

He said that of the elements of the judgement, relating to counsel fess, were being appealed by the Minister for Education and Skills and the SEC.

"The appeal is being taken in the public interest and will have no implications for the Plaintiff (Ms Carter) financial or otherwise, who has now secured her place in university," read the reply. 

Deputy Moynihan said it would also be in the public interest to undertake a complete review of the appeal process to ensure the situation never arises again. 

"The current appeals process is not only cumbersome, frustrating and stressful for the student having to go undertake a case, it is also extremely costly for the State," said Deputy Moynihan. 

He said he was shocked to discover how much Ms Carter's appeal had cost the SEC in legal fees. 

"The system itself is deeply flawed and fact that this case ended up in the High Court at all highlights the inflexibility in the process. The judge in the case stated that situation should not be repeated again," said Deputy Moynihan. 

He said that last year his party colleague Thomas Byrne had called on the then Education Minister Richard Bruton to identify reforms needed and implement  them as soon as possible. 

"We are already two-thirds through the school year and cannot be faced with a similar situation this year. I am calling on Minister Joe McHugh to outline where this process is at and when the much needed reforms will be in place," he said.