Christian Brothers defend decision to sell playing fields

Order to sell 7.5 acres for development at rear of Clonkeen College, Deansgrange

Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, Co Dublin

Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, Co Dublin

 

The Congregation of the Christian Brothers has defended its decision to sell most of the playing fields being used by a secondary school in south Dublin amid protests locally.

In a statement on Friday, the Catholic religious order confirmed it was selling 7.5 acres to the rear of Clonkeen College in Deansgrange.

However, it highlighted that as part of the development it was also proposing to transfer approximately 3.5 acres of land bordering the college to the Edmund Rice School’s Trust (ERST) “for the permanent use and benefit of Clonkeen College”.

“This will bring the congregation’s total land transfer for Clonkeen College to 6.6 acres, inclusive of 3.1 acres transferred with the school in 2008.

The order said it would “also donate €1.3 million cash (inclusive of a €300,000 contribution for school works) to Clonkeen College”. But it said “binding contracts have been entered into with a local home builder”.

In a statement, issued by a public relations company on the order’s behalf, the brothers said the lands had been “acquired by the congregation decades ago for purposes quite separate from Clonkeen College”.

Brother Edmund Garvey, chair of trustees said: “As with any land sale this was not an easy decision, but it was taken having made very substantial provision for the college’s reasonable future needs, having sought professional advice, and having consulted with the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (as licensee of these lands) over the past 12 months.”

Criticism

The decision continues to attract criticism locally and a public meeting was held on Thursday night at which parents, students and teachers voiced their concern.

Cillian Farrelly, a pupil at the school and member of the student council, said the pitches were “much more than an amenity”, they were “the reason why many pupils get out of bed”.

He asked why this generation and future generations of boys at the non-fee paying school should have to “pay the price for the transgressions of an older generation of Christian Brothers”. He said the importance of sport as part of an overall education was clear. “For some pupils it is all about academic excellence and gaining points but some others are not as academic and for them it might be gaining a place on the sports team which is the reason to keep them engaged with education,” he said.

Mr Farrelly said the pupils were appealing directly to the brothers to reconsider the decision and said he hoped they would reply directly to them, and not though the parents’ association or board of management .

The pupils’ approach also received support from Cormac Devlin, Cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council who said “parents, communities and educators throughout the country should be very concerned that their local Christian Brothers school may be viewed as an asset to be disposed of to pay for the debts and living expenses of the brothers.

“In view of the experience of Clonkeen College, I believe that all Christian Brothers schools should be placed into trusts controlled by their boards of management to safeguard future”.