Ahern v De Hora
1980 WJSC-CC 1993
THE CIRCUIT COURT
Judgment of Mr. Justice Doyle delivered the 6th day of October 1980
This action was commenced in the Cork Circuit Court but by order of the Circuit Judge made on the 14th December 1976 the proceedings were transferred to the High Court to be further prosecuted in this Court. Subsequently, by order of the Master of the High Court made on the 5th April 1977 it was ordered that the proceedings already had in the Circuit Court should be adopted and proceeded with in the High Court as if the action had been commenced in this Court.
The plaintiff, Mr. Ahern, is a secondary teacher who on or about the 22nd May of 1972 was appointed Vice Principal of Colaiste Mhuire, Douglas Road, Cork, a secondary school managed by the Presentation Brothers. The plaintiff claims that it was a term of his appointment that he would be entitled to certain special allowances in respect of his position as Vice Principal from the 1st August of 1970 and he alleges that the defendants, and each of them, failed, refused and neglected to pay to the plaintiff these agreed allowances. This is the subject matter of the claim. He also seeks from the Court a declaration that his appointment as Vice Principal of Colaiste Mhuire was a valid appointment.
Prior to the year 1970 lay-teachers in secondary schools managed and maintained by clerics or religious bodies were expressing dissatisfaction with their status in such schools, particularly in relation to their emoluments and their prospects of advancement in the teaching profession. These and kindred topics engaged the attention of the Minister for Education and after discussions with certain persons and bodies concerned, notably the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland, known for brevity as A.S.T.I., who represent the professional interests of the secondary teachers and the Joint Managerial Body, referred to as the J.M.B., the accredited representatives of the school managers, the Minister in July of 1970 published certain proposals intended to effect changes in the structure of secondary school staffing. In particular, the proposals involved the creation of certain appointments to be known as Posts of Special Responsibility, including the position of Vice Principal. It was intended that the new structure would become effective on the 1st August 1970, but its implementation necessitated further discussions and negotiations with the interested parties. Ultimately, a document entitled "Agreed Memorandum" was, on the 14th June 1972, executed by representatives of the J.M.B. and the A.S.T.I. The Minister had agreed that the new Posts of Responsibility, including Vice Principalships, were to be regarded as effective from the 1st August 1970, but payment of the new allowances appropriate to them could not be made until the "Agreed Memorandum" had been executed. In anticipation, and to enable himself to pay those allowances when ascertained, the Minister caused the School Managers concerned to be written to on the 14th April 1972. The letter was written in Irish but paragraph 2, translated into English, is to the effect:
"Now that agreement has been reached in regard to the creation of Posts of Responsibility in secondary schools the Department would be glad to receive as soon as possible proposals relating to the filling of the posts in your school in accordance with "the terms of that agreement."
At that date Brother Leo de Hora, the first-named defendant, was Manager and Principal of Colaiste Mhuire, a secondary school for boys at Douglas Road, Cork, owned and administered by the Presentation Brothers. The plaintiff, Mr. Ahern, was a lay-member of the teaching staff, having been appointed in respect of the scholastic year commencing on the 1st August of 1970. His appointment to Colaiste Mhuire had been made about a month previously. He was until then a vocational school teacher. It is necessary to note that the Agreed Memorandum provided that appointments to posts should be based upon (i) capability and suitability; then, all things being equal, on (ii) length of recognised secondary teaching service in the school.
Upon receipt of the Minister's request in the letter of the 14th April 1972 Brother de Hora proceeded to select members of the lay-teaching staff to fill the new Posts of Responsibility. He judged the plaintiff, Mr. Ahern, to be the person best qualified for the position of Vice Principal, and he wrote to the plaintiff on the 22nd May 1972 offering him this position and briefly setting out the duties and responsibilities which it entailed. About a week later Mr. Ahern orally signified his acceptance of the...
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