Parents, teachers back school in row with Christian Brothers

Clonkeen College staff and students accuse trust of ‘failing to meet its duty’ in playing fields dispute

Parents, staff  and student representatives of Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, held a press conference on Wednesday to protest plans by the school patron to sell off  playing fields for development. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Parents, staff and student representatives of Clonkeen College, Deansgrange, held a press conference on Wednesday to protest plans by the school patron to sell off playing fields for development. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Parents, teachers and pupils at a Catholic secondary school in south Dublin have criticised its patron, the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST), over plans to sell off playing fields used by the school.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton faces questions in the Dáil on Thursday on the continuing dispute between Clonkeen College and ERST over the proposed sale of 7.5 acres of school land to a developer for a reported €18 million.

At a press conference in the school on Wednesday, parents’ association spokeswoman Susan McKenzie said families were “utterly dismayed by the trust’s actions,” which, she said, “appear to be a very deliberate act to frustrate the activities of the board of management in seeking to retain the playing fields ...We have no confidence the ERST are acting in our best interests”.

Teacher Jim Byrne said staff were “in no doubt that ERST has failed to meet its duty to Clonkeen College”.

Máire Lambertini, whose son Mac Dara (17) is a student in the school’s general learning disability unit, said: “The drive to squeeze every last cent out of the land means the school will be left with a single playing pitch butted right up against this world-class special unit.” This would mean noise and distractions for the unit’s six students who require a tranquil environment.

Mark Brophy, chair of the students’ council, said pupils were “shocked and outraged by ERST’s tactics”.

The school board learned the congregation had agreed to sell the land in May 2017.

ERST, a lay organisation established by the Christian Brothers but independent of it, had knowledge of the congregation’s plans to sell the land but did not inform the board until a sale had been agreed, citing a confidentiality agreement with the congregation.

The school has initiated legal action, due to be heard in March, against the congregation disputing its right to sell the land. The sale cannot complete until the legal case is resolved.

The trust has said an improved offer has been made to the school, which would leave them with more space than Department of Education recommendations.

In a letter to each of the board’s eight members, dated December 21st, it gave one month’s notice of its intention to dismiss them, saying the board was not “complying with its obligations” to protect the best interests of the school.

A public meeting will take place at the school on Monday night.

The board cannot be dissolved with the approval of Minister for Education, Richard Bruton. He has said he will be “taking time and space to weigh this properly”.