School and Traveller boy to pay own costs after enrolment case

Supreme Court recently said insufficient evidence to say admission policy discriminatory

A Traveller boy and a secondary school must each pay their own legal costs of the boy's unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court against the school's refusal to enrol him, the five judge court has ruled.

The ruling arises from proceedings brought on behalf of John Stokes by his mother Mary Stokes concerning the enrolment policy of CBS High School, Clonmel, Co Tipperary. It was claimed the school policy of giving preference to the children of past pupils indirectly discriminated against Traveller children.

The Supreme Court earlier this year found the evidence and materials placed before the Circuit Court and Equality Tribunal were insuffcient to enable either make a proper assessment as to whether John Stokes was particularly disadvantaged as a result of neither his father nor another sibling having attended the school.

The school had denied its admission policy was discriminatory and argued, when the boy applied in 2010, there were 174 applications for 140 available places. It also claimed it operates a policy of inclusiveness towards Travellers.


The action was against the school while the Equality Authority was an amicus curuae, assistant to the court on legal issues, in the proceedings.

When costs issues came before the Supreme Court on Thursday, Marguerite Bolger SC, for the school board of management, sought costs of the Supreme Court appeal only. No orders for costs were made when the case was before the High Court and Equality Tribunal, counsel noted.

Ms Bolger said the school had received no public funding for this litigation and had to fund the case itself. While the case may have raised issues of broad public interest, it was effectively brought to assert a private law right to a school place, she argued.

Cormac Ó Dúlacháin SC, for John Stokes, said the appropriate order should be no order for costs, meaning each side bears its own costs. His side had won a number of the legal points raised in the appeal, including that the court had jusisdiction to deal with it, counsel said.

Siobhán Phelan BL, for the Equality Authority, said it had been previously stated her client would pay its own costs.

Mr Justice John Murray, giving the court's ruling, noted no costs orders had been made in the case to date and said it had raised some "novel" issues. Taking all the circumstances into account, the court was satisfied it should make no order for costs of the appeal, he said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times