'Educational rights in irish law' (Thomson Round Hall, 2006) Conor O'Mahony

AuthorRonan Keane
PositionFormer Chief Justice of Ireland
2007] Book Review: “Educational Rights in Irish Law” 209
(Thomson Round Hall, 2006)
Conor O’Mahony
The approach of our law makers to the regulation of Irish
education reminds one of Bus Eireann – you wait an hour for a
bus and then three or four arrive together. So after decades when
the only statutory intervention in education was the school
attendance legislation, the Education Act 1998 was followed by
the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, the Education for Persons with
Special Educational Needs Act 2004 and the Disability Act 2005.
The arrival on the statute book of this vast body of novel
legislation led to the welcome publication last year of Special
Educational Needs and the Law by Mary Meaney, Karl
Monaghan and Nessa Kiernan. Now we have a further valuable
contribution from Dr Conor O’Mahony who is a lecturer in the
Faculty of Law in University College Cork.
The historical background from which our educational
structures emerged and the elaborate treatment of the family and
education in the Constitution have given rise to difficult legal and
constitutional issues, some of which have yet to be resolved, as
Dr O’Mahony eloquently demonstrates. The Constitution
acknowledges the role of the family as “the primary and natural
educator of the child” but obliges the State to provide for free
primary education and other educational facilities required by
“the public good”. What precisely is meant by “education” and
similar expressions is one of the problems with which the courts
have had to grapple.
While Dr O’Mahony is certainly correct in saying that this
was one of the issues which the judgments of the Supreme Court
in Sinnott v. Minister for Education1 did not resolve, it is surely
Former Chief Justice of Ireland.

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