Secular Schools Ireland Ltd is a prospective patron body for national schools in Ireland. We seek to provide co-educational, secular primary school education.
The Department of Education ran a competition for patronage for a new school opening in Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork in September 2015. We submitted an application for patronage under that competition. The deadline for submission was March 20th 2015. We had 98 children pre-enrolled, the largest number of any prospective patron body. In June 2015, the Department of Education announced it was recognising another patron body as the patron of the school.
We challenged that decision by Judicial Review. The High Court refused our application. We appealed to the Court of Appeal. On March 2nd 2017, the three-judge Court found unanimously in our favour. It found that: that “the Department made a serious error of administration in rejecting the application on the basis of invalidity” and that Secular Schools Ireland had been “wrongly excluded” from the evaluation process.
The Court noted that although Secular Schools Ireland was not seeking to set aside the current patronage appointment in respect of the Carrigtwohill school which opened in 2015, “the case raised a significant issue of public administration and it is of real importance for the applicant that its position is vindicated.”
There remains a significant unmet demand for secular primary school education, throughout the country, that now needs to be addressed by the Minister for Education.
Going forward, we intend to apply for patronage of upcoming primary schools, nationally.