North Side Story

Even as the tribunals grind on, the name of Joey's or St Joseph's in Fairview, Dublin, is increasingly remarked

Even as the tribunals grind on, the name of Joey's or St Joseph's in Fairview, Dublin, is increasingly remarked. For Joey's is the alma mater of Charlie Haughey, Des Traynor, Noel Fox, among others. The school boasts two former taoisigh in the persona of Haughey and John A Costello.

Its crop of politicians and businessmen includes the late George Colley, Harry Boland, Michael Joe Cosgrave and Roy Douglas of the Irish Permanent. In the arts, Joey's can lay claim to Brendan Gleeson, who played Martin Cahill in The General, and has starred in many other Irish films.

GAA nostalgics can sigh for Des and Ian Foley, Dessie Ferguson, Norman Allen, Noel Fox, Blackie Coen, Kevin Heffernan, Tony Hanahoe, Jimmy Keaveny, Gay O'Driscoll and Boddy Doyle. Some may remember another past pupil, John Lawlor, who came fourth in the Olympics in the hammer throw in 1960.

Today, there's Curtis Fleming, a Middlesborough player, also an Irish soccer international, while Brian Mooney and Michael Dempsey play for Bohemians and Ken O'Doherty plays for the Liverpool reserves.


And the media has its fair share of Joey's old boys, with The Irish Times accounting for at least four of these.

St Joseph's was a typical creature of the Christian Brothers - a place where education would be used to advance the social and economic position of Catholics. It would take working-class boys, pull them up by the bootstraps, and they, in turn, would play their part in constructing a nationalist, Catholic, Irish Ireland.

In 1895, of 528 students who passed the Intermediate Examination in "Gaelic", 449 came from Christian Brothers' schools. In 1896, the Gaelic League passed a motion - moved by Eoin McNeill and seconded by Douglas Hyde - congratulating the Brothers on their continued success in teaching Irish for the Intermediate exams and regretting that their "patriotic action" had not been more generally followed by other schools.

Irish was the language of Joey's just as GAA was its game. The Brothers were enthusiastic enforcers of the GAA ban on foreign games. The leather - an leathar - was used to ensure noses were kept to the grindstone and exams were passed.

But that Joey's has vanished - along with de Valera's vision of an inward-looking Ireland. The new Joey's offers a pluralist choice of games, including the formerly despised soccer. Irish is no longer spoken in the corridors, the leather has been replaced by a discipline policy, and, this year, girls have come to Joey's for the first time ever.

There are no Christian Brothers on the staff, though it's still a Christian Brothers' school with two Brothers on the board of management.

Students come to the school from as far afield as Rush, Malahide and Portmarnock as well as from the neighbouring areas, says principal Michael Foster. The 400 pupils represent a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and academic abilities, with more than 60 per cent of students now going on to third level.

Everyone participates in Transition Year, which was introduced in 1989. Students do work experience, community care and outdoor pursuits as well as legal studies, art and drama. Foster is an enthusiastic supporter of the year, which he says helps boys to mature and allows them to develop talents other than the academic.

Past pupils are very important to the school, he says. On the fund-raising front, they have raised sufficient money to equip a 17-station computer lab. They also provide a number of scholarships to help past students with third-level costs. "We've found them very helpful when it comes to finding work experience and job placements," adds Foster.

In terms of the academic, the school divides students by ability for English, Irish and maths. And, after Transition Year, students can choose four subjects from a choice of 13 electives. "We are one of a few Christian Brothers schools to offer both art and music," says the principal.

Discipline is fair, firm and consistent, he says, with a disciplinary document drawn up in consultation with parents and approved by the board of management.

With the new Clontarf DART station nearby, Joey's has expanded to provide a repeat Leaving Cert class. This year, for the first time, 29 girls are repeating the Leaving alongside 23 boys - they have fitted into the school effortlessly, according to Foster. But, the main school has no plans to go coed, he says.

Games master Brendan Leahy joined Joey's in 1972. Sports then meant Gaelic football, hurling and swimming, in keeping with tradition. In 1959, Joey's was the first day school to win the senior Gaelic All-Ireland. The advantage of a high profile in the GAA world was balanced by a lack of choice for students whose tastes did not run to GAA.

"In the mid-Seventies, soccer was introduced as an alternative," says Leahy. "This wasn't a very revolutionary thing to do - the students had been playing at an unofficial level. It was only a recognition of what they were already doing at weekends."

Success in soccer soon followed and, in one period in the Seventies, the school won two Leinster soccer titles as well as seven Leinster Gaelic titles. In the Eighties, the choice of sport widened to include basketball, squash, gold, pitch and putt, table tennis and athletics.

"The competitive element of the school is still very much in the students' psyche," says Leahy. "By nature, they want to compete and do well and they love the opportunity to compete."

As Joey's diversified, the outside perception of its stength as a GAA school diminished but Leahy says this is a false perception - the school is still strong in Gaelic games.

Joey's spirit is exemplifed by Brother Carberry, he says, who drove the school teams to most of their matches and who could be found, incongruously encouraging the soccer team with shouts of "Ar aghaidh, Naomh Sheosamh!"