There are two official reports on St Joseph’s College, Borrisoleigh. One is a whole-school evaluation by the Department of Education in 2007 and the other is an Ombudsman’s report published today.
The facts are as follows. St Joseph’s College, Borrisoleigh, is a private school, wholly owned and managed by Pádraig O’ Shea. It has an uncompromisingly Catholic ethos, although the exchequer pays the salaries of its teachers, but in itself, this is not an issue, since the State also pays the salaries of Muslim and Jewish teachers.
A 16-year-old girl applied to be a student in this school and was initially accepted until her parents disclosed to the school’s owner that their daughter was pregnant.
She was refused a place.
When the girl’s mother wrote to the school’sowner, he replied,
Your letter surprises me. A neighbour called at your request and stated that your daughter was pregnant. I was shocked and I told her that I did not take in such girls. She conveyed the message to you.
Your daughter or mine. Such girls.
We’re not too far from the Magdalene Laundries with these attitudes, and yet it continues to exist in this little republic.
The parents complained to the Ombudsman, who requested details of the school’s policies but the reply was equally dismissive.
Neither am I obliged to have any other frills that you mention. This school is NOT a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers who, in particular, have been in two other post primary schools. The school has an uncompromising ethos and will not become a dumping ground for those rejected elsewhere.
There you go. Pay my costs but don’t ask any questions.
Before you start pointing out that we’re talking about a pregnant sixteen-year-old and passing judgement, let me say something. You don’t know the circumstances of this girl’s pregnancy, any more than I do, and certainly no more than the owner of St Joseph’s College, the man who feels entitled to talk dismissively about such girls.
I think his attitudes are reminiscent of the views that consigned generations of Irish women to imprisonment in institutions, and I think that such attitudes should not be influencing the education system in our so-called republic.
We need to change the funding system so that people like Pádraig O’Shea are no longer funded from the public purse and we need to change the system of oversight so that such schools are subjected to proper scrutiny, instead of the half-hearted examination revealed in this 2007 report.