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Quinn faces call to cut €100m for private schools

RUAIRI QUINN, below, has come under intense pressure from within his own party to slash the €100m subsidy paid to fee-paying schools.

The education minister is considering cutting payments made to 55 private schools across the State as he bids to make €77m of savings in the upcoming Budget.

However the move is being strongly resisted from principals - who claim their schools will be "wiped out" if the subsidy is cut.

And Mr Quinn may also face a backlash from TDs who have a strong support base in affluent areas where some of the schools are located.

Some €100m is handed over to 55 fee-paying schools every year to pay teachers and special needs assistants.

But there is growing view among Labour TDs that system must be changed, with one deputy describing it as "education apartheid".

Mr Quinn's fellow Labour minister, Alan Kelly, strongly indicated that a cut to the subsidy is on the cards.

"In principle I think the day of being able to give €96m-€100m for private schools is something that is going to come to an end," said the junior transport minister.

Mr Quinn is currently reviewing the findings of a department audit which examined the use of the payments.

Labour's Dublin South West deputy, Eamonn Maloney, tabled a motion at the party conference calling for the subsidy to be scrapped entirely.

"I've always made the argument that it's an exercise in apartheid in Irish education and that it has gone on for too long," he said.

But Oliver Murphy, principal of Dublin's Castleknock College, said the State would be left with the responsibility of schools thousands of more pupils if it decides to withdraw the funding."