Student wins case over refusal of place at Army Cadet School

Judge says academic entry requirement changes ‘unfair’ without adequate notice

A Co Kilkenny student who went to the High Court after being refused a place this autumn in the Army Cadet School can begin the course immediately after winning his legal action.

Mr Justice Michael McGrath found that changes to the course’s admission rules, introduced last April, impacted Gavin Morrissey (19) in an was unfair and unreasonable manner because as they were made without clear notice to him.

The 19-year-old, who said his dream career was to be an army officer, was relying on earlier terms that allowed him to carry forward results from more than one Leaving Certificate to meet the minimum academic requirements for entry to the course. The changed terms meant he could not do this.

The judge said the Minister for Defence had enacted terms, “perhaps unwittingly”, which had the effect of “changing the goalposts after the game had begun” and Mr Morrissey was entitled to succeed in his application.


After the ruling, Patrick Leonard SC, for the Minister, said Mr Morrissey could start the course now.

Mr Morrissey said he was “very relieved” after the case, but did not wish to comment further.

‘Third time’

In his proceedings, Mr Morrissey, of Airmount Road, Slieverue, claimed the “material” change to the entry requirements meant he could not start the course unless he sat the Leaving Certificate for a third time.

The dispute concerned whether Mr Morrissey, who sat and passed the Leaving Cert in 2017, and again in 2018, was entitled to carry forward a pass in Maths in the 2017 to meet the requirement of achieving passing grades in six higher or ordinary level subjects.

As the 2018/19 cadet course started late last month, his case was fast-tracked.

Mr Morrissey says he only learned, from a Defence Forces email in June, of the Minister's decision to prevent results being carried forward from one Leaving Cert to another. That decision was set out in terms and conditions published on April 1st on the Defence Forces website.

The June email also set out the terms and conditions for cadet school admissions and noted all the minimum educational requirements must be met in a single sitting of the Leaving Cert. Mr Morrissey said the first maths paper of the Leaving Cert was over when he got the email.

Adequate notice

Oisin Quinn, for Mr Morrissey, said the Minster was entitled to change the rules for admission but his case was that there should be clear and adequate notice provided to affected persons like Mr Morrissey.

Mr Justice McGrath said the issue was the legality of how the terms and conditions were altered without notice to Mr Morrissey and how they were applied to him.

The judge accepted Mr Morrissey had relied on how the rules operated over previous years. He noted that it appeared some sections of the Defence Forces also shared Mr Morrissey’s understanding of the rules.

The fact Mr Morrissey’s parents incurred €6,000 expenses by his resitting the Leaving Certificate to meet the requirements as he understood them, and the fact he dropped Maths, all showed as a matter of probability he relied on the previous rules, the judge said.

The judge adjourned the matter to November 13th.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times