Education Law Update: Mary Stokes V CBS High School Clonmel

Author:Mr Ian O'Herlihy and Catherine Kelly
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

On 24 February last, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal brought by Mary Stokes against CBS High School Clonmel ("the School"). Her case against the School had focused on the inclusion of the parental rule in its Admissions Policy.

She argued that her son, as a member of the traveller community, had less of a chance of having a father who went to the School as many travellers have not attended second level over the past few decades.

Therefore, she asserted that the parental rule was indirectly discriminatory against members of the traveller community and in breach of the provisions of the Equal Status Act 2000 (the "Act").


John Stokes applied for a place in the School for the academic year 2010/2011. Places in the School for that year were in high demand with 174 boys applying for the 140 places available in first year.  

The School allocated places in accordance with its Admissions Policy. In the first round, places were given to all boys who fulfilled all 3 stated criteria in its policy, namely, 

applicants who had parents who were seeking to submit their sons to a Roman Catholic education in accordance with the Mission Statement and Christian ethos of the School, applicants who had a brother who attended or was in attendance at the School or was the child of a past pupil or had close family ties with the School, applicants who had attended for their primary school education at one of the schools designated as a feeder school. A list of those schools was set out in the Admissions Policy. Any pupils who did not gain admission in the first round went into a second round, in which places were allocated by lottery. 

In the first round John Stokes satisfied the criteria in relation to his parents wanting him to be educated as a Catholic and the requirement that he had attended one of the designated feeder schools. However he did not satisfy the criterion for having a sibling either in the School or who had attended the School, or a father who had been a past pupil of the School. On that basis he was not allocated a place in the first round.

The remaining places in the School were then allocated by lottery, however John Stokes was not successful in that lottery and did not gain a place. 

Mary Stokes then unsuccessfully appealed the Admissions decision through the School's admissions procedure. She also unsuccessfully appealed the decision not to give her son a place in the School to the Department of Education and Skills under...

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