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Legal bid to relocate school clears first stage

29 Nov 2016

In a legal bid to relocate an Irish Language Primary School the court has granted leave in the application for judicial review of the decision taken by the Education Minister to turn down the proposal to relocate Gaelscoil an Lonnáin from the current inadequate premises to a new purpose built premises at the former St Comgall’s School site.

As the school numbers have increased since it moved to its current premises in 2004,the current building in which the school is situated which is 115 years old, has become cramped and restrictive. The Board of Governors of Gaelscoil an Lonnáin therefore submitted a proposal for the relocation to the Department of Education in December 2015. This proposed the move to the former site of St Comgall’s School. This proposal was turned down by the Minister on 17th June 2016. A judicial review application was lodged on behalf of a pupil of the school, assisted by his Mother and next friend, challenging the decision taken by the Education Minister to turn down the proposal.

The challenge is made on the grounds that the decision is irrational and illegal, that it takes irrelevant factors into account and fails to give sufficient weight to relevant considerations. Finally, it is challenged on the grounds that the decision is procedurally defective and that the Minister has exercised his power for an improper purpose.

The decision fails to take into account the cost neutral nature of the proposed relocation and does not comply with the statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish medium education. It is also in breach of the Human Rights Act and European Convention of Human Rights in failing to prioritise the welfare of the child as a primary consideration. The decision fails to take into account the increasing demand for Irish medium education in the area. In addition, there is significant support for the proposed relocation including from the Education Authority, the Education and Training Authority and Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the statutory body set up to advise the Department of Education on compliance with the statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development Irish medium education.

'We are pleased that the court has granted leave in this application. We will continue with the challenge and hope to secure the result that will allow the relocation to proceed.' Joanne McGurk, Solicitor

If you would like any legal advice on the issues raised in this article, contact Michael Flanigan or Joanne McGurk at Michael Flanigan Solicitors 207 Falls Rd, Belfast BT12 6FB 028 90 233309.