Traveller groups react to Supreme Court ruling with dismay

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission says the decision demands a response from the State

Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, outside the Four Courts yesterday. She said the judgment showed “discrimination [was] very alive and well”. Photograph: Courts/Collins

Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, outside the Four Courts yesterday. She said the judgment showed “discrimination [was] very alive and well”. Photograph: Courts/Collins

 

Travellers groups have said they were “dismayed” by the Supreme Court decision but hoped it would increase pressure on Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to legislate against discriminatory enrolment policies.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said the decision demanded a response from the State. That should be that forthcoming legislation on schools admissions policies “address equity of access”.

Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, said the judgment showed “discrimination [was] very alive and well”. She said Mary Stokes had stood up “against all odds, all barriers and against the system which currently does not provide a level playing field for all children, particularly marginalised and disadvantaged children”. Ms Stokes had taken the case, not only for her son but for other children, she said.

Martin Collins, director of Pavee Point, said there was “ongoing and endemic discrimination” against Travellers in many school enrolment policies.

“We are hopeful that the Minister for Education can see from the Stokes case that these policies inhibit equality and prevent freedom of access to education,” he said.

Ms Quilligan also referred to the judgment of three of the court’s judges that there was insufficient statistical evidence to support the claim that Travellers were disadvantaged by the parent rule in the Clonmel school’s enrolment policy. The lack of this type of evidence was because the data was not available, she said.

A spokesman for the Christian Brother High School in Clonmel said it welcomed the decision that, “it did not discriminate against John Stokes”.