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Traveller loses legal case over right to attend local school

The teenager’s mother had argued that giving priority enrolment to sons of past pupils was indirect discrimination against Travellers.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE MOTHER OF a teenage boy has lost a High Court case to allow the student to attend his local secondary school.

John Stokes, who is a Traveller, had been refused admission to the Christian Brothers’ High School in Clonmel in 2010. His mother lodged a complaint over the school’s policy of giving priority enrolment to sons of past pupils.

Mary Stokes had argued that giving priority to students with fathers who were past pupils of the school disproportionately affected members of the Traveller community as they are statistically less likely to have a father who attended secondary school.

Only 10 per cent of Traveller men of John’s father’s generation progressed to second level, according to figures from the Irish Traveller Movement.

However the High Court ruled today that the policy was indirectly discriminatory against Travellers but it equally affects anyone who is not the son of a former pupil.

Siobhán Cummiskey, the managing solicitor of the Irish Traveller Movement who represented Mary Stokes in court, said that the outcome was disappointing.

“To require young Travellers today to have a parent as a past pupil of the local school in order to gain priority of admission perpetuates the historical exclusion of Travellers from education and carries forward this burden onto the next generation of young Travellers. It is time for a more inclusive education system in Ireland,” she said.

Mary Stokes had initially lodged a complaint with the Equality Tribunal who found in John’s favour and awarded him a place in December 2010. However the school successfully appealed the judgment in July 2011.

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