Conway v Irish National Teachers Organisation

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeGRIFFIN J.,FINLAY C.J.
Judgment Date14 February 1991
Neutral Citation1991 WJSC-SC 230
Docket Number[1981 No. 2706P]
Date14 February 1991

1991 WJSC-SC 230

THE SUPREME COURT

Finlay C.J.

Griffin J.

McCarthy J.

423/88
CONWAY v. IRISH NATIONAL TEACHERS ORGANISATION
FIONA CONWAY (LATE AN INFANT BUT NOW OF FULLAGE)
Plaintiff/
Respondent

and

IRISH NATIONAL TEACHERS' ORGANISATION AND OTHERS
Defendants/
Appellants

Citations:

CROWLEY & ORS V IRELAND & ORS 1980 IR 102

HAYES V IRELAND & ORS 1987 ILRM 651

KENNEDY & ORS V IRELAND 1988 ILRM 472

ROOKES V BARNARD 1964 AC 1129

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S7

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S14

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S7(2)

CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 S14(4)

BROOME V CASSELL & CO 1972 AC 1027

DILLON V DUNNES STORES & ORS UNREP SUPREME 20.12.68

QUINN, STATE V RYAN 1965 IR 70

CONSTITUTION ART 42.4

UREN V FAIRFAX & SONS LTD 1967 ALR 25

AUSTRALIA CONSOLIDATED PRESS LTD V UREN 1969 1 AC 590

DPP, PEOPLE V KENNY 1990 ILRM 569

DPP, PEOPLE V LYNCH 1982 IR 64

TERRY V OHIO 1968 392 US 1

MCINTYRE V LEWIS, DOLAN, IRELAND & AG UNREP SUPREME 17.12.90

BROOME V CASSELL & CO 1971 2 QB 354

Synopsis:

CONSTITUTION

Personal rights

Education - Infringement - Damages - Exemplary damages - Teachers" strike - Interruption of pupil's primary education - Deliberate infringement of constitutional right - (423/88 - Supreme Court - 14/2/91) - [1991] 2 I.R. 305 - [1991] ILRM 497

|Conway v. Irish National Teachers Organisation|

DAMAGES

Assessment

Constitution - Personal rights - Infringement - Free primary education - Interruption - Teachers" trade dispute - Damage suffered by pupil - Exemplary (punitive) damages - Principles applicable - Pleadings - Civil Liability Act, 1961, ss. 7, 14 - (423/88 - Supreme Court - 14/2/91) [1991] 2 I.R. 305 [1991] ILRM 497

|Conway v. Irish National Teachers Organisation|

EDUCATION

Interruption

Damages - Constitution - Personal rights - Infringement - Exemplary damages - Teachers" strike - Pupil's right to primary education - Furtherance of strike by unlawful means - (423/88 - Supreme Court - 14/2/91) - [1991] 2 I.R. 305 - [1991] ILRM 497

|Conway v. Irish National Teachers Organisation|

1

JUDGMENT delivered on the 14th day of February 1991by FINLAY C.J.

2

This is an appeal brought by the Defendants against an Order made by Barron J. in the High Court on the 7th December 1988 in a claim made by the Plaintiff against the Defendants for damages in respect of an alleged conspiracy to deprive the Plaintiff of her constitutional right to free primary education.

3

The issue of the liability of the Defendants to the Plaintiff was clearly covered by the decision of the High Court, in the case of Crowley & Ors. v. Ireland &Ors. which is reported at 1980 IR, 102, and the proceedings herein were accordingly heard as an assessment of damages only.

4

The learned trial Judge assessed damages under three headings in a total sum of £11,500, namely,

(1)

Exemplary damages

£1,500

(2)

General loss

£7,500

(3)

Loss of career prospects

£2,500

5

The Defendants have appealed against the assessment in respect of exemplary damages both on the grounds that exemplary damages should not have been awarded at all and, on the alternative grounds, that if awarded the assessment of them in the sum of £1,500 was excessive. In regard to the damages other than exemplary damages awarded by the learned trial Judge the Defendants, while contesting all the damages as excessive in the Notice of Appeal, in effect confined their submissions to an assertion that the sum of £7,500 general loss wasexcessive.

6

In a reserved judgment delivered by him on the 2nd November 1988 Barron J. indicated that the background facts to this action before him were to be found in the reports of Crowley v. Ireland 1980 IR, and Hayes v. Ireland 1987 ILRM.

7

Very shortly summarised, those background facts in so far as they constitute the actionable conspiracy to deprive the Plaintiff of her constitutional right to free primary education are as follows.

8

The Defendants were in early 1976 in dispute with the Parish Priest of the parish of Drimoleague who was the manager and subsequently chairman of the managing board of the primary schools in Drimoleague, and with the Minister for Education concerning the appointment of a new principal to the Drimoleague National School. In furtherance of that dispute they instituted a withdrawal of all labour from the schools in the Drimoleague parish, commencing on the 1st April 1976.

9

In August 1976 they issued a directive to all theteachers in the surrounding areas to refuse to accept for enrolment in their schools any child who had previously been enrolled in one or other of the schools within the parish of Drimoleague. The consequence from the point of view of this Plaintiff of that conduct was that having been deprived from April 1976 to the end of that school year of any education in the Drimoleague National School of which she was a pupil in the third class, she was from the commencement of the school year in September 1976 prevented not only from obtaining education in that school, but also from obtaining education in any other neighbourhood or adjacent school. This deprivation lasted until February of 1977 when she was afforded a partial resumption of her primary education by being included in the Drimoleague school, in a class which consisted of the fourth year, the fifth year and the sixth year, all taught by one person.

10

For the purpose of considering the question as to whether in respect of this wrongful conspiracy exemplarydamages are an appropriate remedy, it is necessary to consider a description of what the wrongful acts involved contained in the cases which have been referred to and clearly adopted by the learned trialJudge.

11

The ratio decidendi of McMahon J. in holding that the Defendants' conduct was an actionable conspiracy is to be found most succinctly stated at page 110 of the Report, where he stated asfollows:

"The teachers who refused to enrol the Drimoleague schoolchildren in adjoining schools did not act primarily for the purpose of exercising a right to work or not to work or to choose the conditions under which they would work. In my view their purpose was to deprive the Drimoleague children of primary education in order to exert pressure on Fr. Crowley; what was done amounted to the use of of unlawful means to deprive the Drimoleague children of their constitutional right. Therefore it is actionable at the suit of the children who can show that they have been deprived of their constitutional right by the action of theirteachers."

12

These Defendants did not appeal against that finding of liability against them, but the first three Defendants who were then in the suit, namely, Ireland, the Minister for Education and the Attorney General, did appeal against a finding made by McMahon J. of liability on their part. That appeal was then heard by this Court. In the course of his decision on that appeal, which dissented from the view of the majority of the Court, that the first three Defendants were entitled to a dismiss of the action against them, O'Higgins C.J., having recited part of the facts, stated at page 118 as follows:

"On the 20th August 1976, after the primary objective of their strike had failed and after the appointment of Mr. McCarthy in a permanent capacity, INTO issued a directive to all the teachers in the schools adjoining Drimoleague Parish. This directive instructed all these teachers not to enrol Drimoleague pupils. These were the children who had already been deprived of the services of the striking teachers. One can only speculate at the motives which inspired thisdirective. Whatever these motives may have been, they cannot have been worthy of a responsible organisation concerned for and with the education of young children. Those who decided upon this directive or caused it to be issued were no doubt angered at the unsuccessful outcome of their efforts to prevent the appointment of Mr. McCarthy. This feeling of anger or resentment may have been justified in the circumstances attendant on that appointment. However, where can justification be found for their seeking to harm not those who made the appointment to which objection was taken, but to harm innocent children who had nothing whatsoever to do with it?"

13

I am satisfied that these Defendants are, having regard to what was clearly the acceptance of liability in this case, bound by the findings made by McMahon J. in the High Court in the case of Crowley v.Ireland at a stage when these Defendants were still parties to that action and against which they made no appeal. They were not parties to the appeal but I would adopt as being correct and accurate the description contained in the judgment of O'Higgins C.J., which I havejustquoted, of the conduct found by McMahon J. in the High Court in the action of Crowley v. Ireland & Ors. It is in respect of that conduct that Barron J. was assessing damages in this case, and therefore the issue of whether or not exemplary damages are at law allowable at all and, if so, what the measure of them should be, must, it seems to me, be determined against the background of the fact that the cause of action in this case is as found by McMahon J. and merits the description contained in the judgment of O'Higgins C.J.

Decision of the learned trial Judge concerning exemplary damages
14

The portion of the judgment of Barron J. concerning exemplary damages reads as follows:

"In addition it seems to me that the reasoning of Kennedy and Arnold v. Ireland, a judgment of Hamilton P., delivered on the 12th January 1987, applies equally in the present case. There was a totally conscious and deliberate action on the part of the Defendants to gain their own ends without any thought to those who could suffer as a result. There are about seventy claims in all. In my view the exemplary damages should bemeasured in an amount to meet the wrongdoing rather than to benefit the wronged. For this reason I would measure...

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