Mediation talks urged to resolve row over sale of south Dublin school’s playing fields

Mary Mitchell O’Connor calls on Christian Brothers and Clonkeen College to enter

Minister of State with responsibility for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has urged the Christian Brothers and Clonkeen College to  enter into mediation talks over a row involving the sale of the school’s playing fields. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Minister of State with responsibility for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has urged the Christian Brothers and Clonkeen College to enter into mediation talks over a row involving the sale of the school’s playing fields. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The Christian Brothers and Clonkeen College have been urged to enter into mediation talks over a row involving the planned sale of the south Dublin school’s playing fields for euro18 million.

Last week, a judge strongly criticised the behaviour of both parties who are embroiled in a High Court action in relation to the proposed sale.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said she had an “extremely dim view” of the manner in which both sides have behaved in proceedings concerning Clonkeen College in Deansgrange.

Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor has called on the congregation and Clonkeen College’s board of management to “return to the table to mediate a solution”. “I am calling on the Christian Brothers and the board of management of Clonkeen School to return to the table to mediate a solution in light of Ms Justice Carmel Stewart’s observations,” Ms Mitchell O’Connor.

“Last week I spoke to the Ceann Comhairle, Séan Ó Fearghail, T.D, and he has stated to me that his offer of March 2018 still stands, to use his office and his impartial stance to assist all parties to reach a resolution.”

To date, neither party has availed of the offer.

Members of Clonkeen College’s board of management have sued the congregation of Christian Brothers, in an attempt to retain the playing fields for as long as the school remains in operation.

The playing fields are held by trustees acting on behalf of the congregation and are subject of a five-year licence for sporting use.

The licence was granted by the trustees to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, the patron body which owns Clonkeen College.

Under a proposed €18 million deal, the congregation will sell seven acres of the playing fields to builder Patrick Durkan Snr.

€1.3 million

The school will receive €1.3 million and will retain one area for use as a playing pitch, but the plaintiffs say it is unsuitable and they were kept in the dark over the deal.

The school’s board of management claim the sale breaches a 2006 agreement with the congregation whose terms included the playing fields would remain available for the school.

The congregation, however, denies entering into any agreement in 2006 as alleged and says it has a binding contract to sell the lands and intends to make significant charitable donations from the proceeds.

The Edmund Rice Schools Trust, meanwhile, has sought to scrap Clonkeen College’s board of management over its opposition to the sale. However, this move requires the approval of Minister for Education Richard Bruton to dissolve the board.

The trust, a lay organisation which manages nearly 100 formerly Christian Brothers schools, has accused Clonkeen College’s board of not “complying with its obligations” to protect the best interests of the school in taking its action against the congregation.

When last contacted, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said Mr Bruton was still considering the request to dissolve the board and that the legislation “ does not specify a timeframe for this process”.