Bruton accused of ‘standing idly by’ as school pitches sold

Minister says he cannot intervene in Christian Brothers sale of land at Clonkeen College

The Christian Brothers are selling the three hectares (7.5 acres) of land used by Clonkeen College in south Dublin for playing fields

The Christian Brothers are selling the three hectares (7.5 acres) of land used by Clonkeen College in south Dublin for playing fields

 

The Minister for Education has insisted he has no role in High Court proceeding taken by the board of management of a south Dublin school to prevent the Christian Brothers selling land used as playing pitches.

Richard Bruton said the Christian Brothers are the legal owners of the three hectares (7.5 acres) of land used by Clonkeen College for playing fields, “and have the right to dispose of it. That is the legal position that I cannot alter.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett in whose Dún Laoghaire constituency the school is based, said seven members of the board had been forced to take High Court proceedings to prevent the sale. If it went ahead it “will rob the current 500 students and future generations of students of playing fields”.

He asked if the Minister would help secure the land for the school or “take a hands-off approach and force the board of management members to take very expensive legal proceedings with uncertain outcomes to save them”.

Mr Bruton pointed out that the Congregation of the Christian Brothers was a private entity and “to dispose of land owned by the congregation is a matter for it”.

Mr Boyd Barrett claimed there was time to intervene but the Minister said the congregation had informed the department that the lands “have been sold, that it has signed and exchanged legally binding contracts with the purchasers and that it cannot reverse this transaction”.

But Mr Boyd Barrett questioned how the Minister could say the school was not his business when there had been “massive public investment” and it was “bizarre” that facilities that had received such public investment were going to be substantially degraded.

He said the Minister could alter the legal position “by subjecting it to compulsory purchase order” and could do that by asking local authorities to purchase land for school building.

The department “has invested in these pitches. They were upgraded and fenced with departmental funding.”

He claimed it was “unconscionable” for the Minister to “stand idly by” while the lands were sold.

Mr Bruton said the Christian Brothers had made arrangements for the transfer of some of the land but they owned other land they had decided to dispose of. “I am not in a position to purchase it from them or to block the sale.”

He said the department had no role in the proceedings. “I regret that this is the situation and that I cannot give the deputy more reassurance.”