State (Donegal v.E.C.) v Minister for Education

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Date01 January 1985
Docket Number[1984 No.

High Court

[1984 No. 259 SS.]
The State (Donegal v. E.C.) v. Minister for Education
The State (at the Prosecution of County Donegal Vocational Education Committee)
and
The Minister for Education

Cases mentioned in this report:—

Collins v. Co. Cork Vocational Education Committee (unreported Murphy J., High Court - 27th May, 1982; Supreme Court - 18th March, 1983).

East Donegal Co-Operative v. The Attorney General [1970] I.R. 317; 104 I.L.T.R. 81.

Ní Bheoláin v. City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee(unreported Carroll J., High Court - 28th January, 1983).

Padfield v. Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] A.C. 997; [1968] 2 W.L.R. 924; [1968] 1 All E.R. 694.

The State (Lynch) v. Cooney [1982] I.R. 337; [1982] I.L.R.M. 190; [1983] I.L.R.M. 89.

Education - Employment - Vocational teacher - Suspension by Vocational Education Committee - Ministerial inquiry refused - Whether Minister has discretion to refuse to hold inquiry - Nature of inquiry - Whether Vocational Education Committee has locus standi to challenge refusal to hold inquiry - Vocational Education Act, 1930, (No. 29), ss. 30, 105 - Vocational Education (Amendment) Act, 1944, (No. 9), ss. 7, 8.

Mandamus.

The facts are summarised in the headnote and appear more fully in the judgment, infra.

The Committee, as prosecutor, applied for an order of mandamuscompelling the respondent Minister to inquire into the allegations made at the time of the suspension of the teacher by the Committee that he had failed to perform satisfactorily the duties of his office, or had misconducted himself in relation to such office or was otherwise unfit to hold such office, pursuant to the provisions of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act, 1944.

Section 105, sub-s. 1, of the Vocational Education Act, 1930 provides as follows:—

"The Minister may at any time cause an inquiry (in this Act referred to as a local inquiry) to be held in relation to the performance by a vocational education committee of its duties under this Act or in relation to the performance by an officer or a servant of a vocational education committee of his duties as such officer or servant (as the case may be) and for that purpose may appoint an officer of the Minister to hold such local inquiry."

Section 7, sub-ss. 1-5, of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act, 1944, provide as follows:—

"(1). Whenever in respect of the holder of an office under a vocational education committee there is, in the opinion of such committee or of the Minister, reason to believe that such holder has failed to perform satisfactorily the duties of such office or is otherwise unfit to hold such office, such committee or the Minister (as the case may be) may suspend such holder from the performance of the duties of such office while such alleged failure, misconduct, or unfitness is being inquired into and the disciplinary action (if any) to be taken in regard thereto is being determined and such inquiry shall be held as soon as conveniently may be after the date of the suspension.

(2). Whenever a vocational education committee suspend a person under this section, such committee shall forthwith report the suspension and the reasons therefor to the Minister.

(3). The Minister may terminate a suspension under this section and every such suspension shall continue until so terminated.

(4). Whenever the holder of an office under a vocational education committee is suspended under this section, he shall forthwith hand over to such committee all books, deeds, contracts, accounts, vouchers, maps, plans, and other documents in his possession, custody, or control which relate to such office.

(5). The holder of an office who is suspended under this section shall not be paid any remuneration in respect of such office during the continuance of his suspension and, upon the termination of his suspension, the remuneration which he would, had he not been suspended, have been paid during the period of suspension shall be wholly or partly forfeited, or paid to him, or otherwise disposed of, as the Minister shall direct."

Section 8, sub-ss. 1, 2 and 4 of the Act of 1944 provide as follows:—

"(1). For the purposes of this section, the following shall be the statutory grounds for the removal of the holder of an office from such office, that is to say:—

  • (a) unfitness of such holder for such office,

  • (b) the fact that such holder has refused to obey or carry into effect any order lawfully given to him as the holder of such office, or has otherwise misconducted himself in such office,

and in this section, the expression 'statutory grounds for removal from office' shall be construed accordingly.

  • (2). Where the Minister is satisfied as a result of a local inquiry that any of the statutory grounds for removal from office exists as regards the holder of an office, the Minister may by order remove such holder from office.

  • (4). Where the holder of an office is convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the Minister, renders him unfit for such office, the Minister may by order remove such holder from such office."

As to the judicial review of the exercise of statutory powers by Ministers see Padfield v. Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] A.C. 997 (which was cited in argument in the High Court), East Donegal Co-Operative v.The Attorney General [1970] I.R. 317 and The State (Lynch) v. Cooney [1982] I.R. 337.

The prosecutor's application for an absolute order of mandamus,notwithstanding cause shown, was heard on the 13th July, 1984.

The prosecutor, County Donegal Vocational Education Committee, determined in November, 1983, to suspend a vocational teacher from the performance of his duties, without remuneration, in accordance with the provisions of s. 7 of the Vocational Education (Amendment) Act, 1944. Pursuant to the provisions of the same section, the Committee reported the suspension to the Minister for Education. That report was accompanied by documentation relating to the conduct by the teacher of his duties over a number of years, and the material was also forwarded to the teacher concerned. At the hearing of the meeting of the Committee which decided to suspend the teacher, he was represented by a member of his trade union and was given an opportunity to speak on his own behalf but he chose not to do so. The material on which the Committee took its decision disclosed repeated records of absence without permission by the teacher and refusals by him to co-operate in administrative work in connection with the work requested of him by the school principal. The Committee also considered the contents of reports conducted by vocational school inspectors which were highly critical of his work as a teacher. In April, 1984, the Committee was informed by letter from the Department of Education that as the Minister was not satisfied that the teacher had been appraised with sufficient precision of the grounds for his suspension the Minister had decided to terminate the suspension, that the teacher's remuneration for the period of suspension should be paid to him and that it was a matter for the Committee to determine if it wished to proceed further with the matter. The Committee sought an order of mandamus requiring the Minister to inquire into the allegations that the teacher had failed to perform satisfactorily the duties imposed on him.

Held by O'Hanlon J., in refusing to grant the order sought, 1, while the Minister was under an obligation to inquire into the alleged misconduct of a teacher once a properly constituted Vocational Education...

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