Monday 11 December 2017

State's demand of 'cash only' led to sale of school's sports pitches

Clonkeen College is set to lose two-thirds of its pitches
Clonkeen College is set to lose two-thirds of its pitches

The Christian Brothers order told Clonkeen College it is selling two-thirds of the school's sports pitches because the State wants cash, instead of land, for its redress scheme for abuse survivors.

"The brothers told us the Government is insisting on cash," the Dublin school's deputy principal Michael Brennan told the Herald.

The news comes as the Christian Brothers confirmed that "binding contracts" have been entered into with a local home-builder to sell that land.

The order is selling off 7.5 acres of sports land used by the secondary school in Deansgrange.

The school had the use of around 14 acres of land for decades. In 2008, the order gave ownership of the school on a three-acre site to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

The other 11 acres continued to be used by the school for sports.

Now the Christian Brothers is selling land to a developer for more than €16m and gifting the remaining 3.5 acres back to the school through the Edmund Rice Schools Trust.

The order will give €10m from the sale to the state redress scheme.

"Our playing fields were vital to the whole community, including local sports clubs," said Mr Brennan (62).

"We are not an elite school and the parents of our pupils are working class and coping class."

He said the school would need at least five acres to be restored, instead of 3.5 acres, to facilitate one GAA pitch.

It was not possible to offer part of the land to the State for redress purposes because the order had to pay in cash, he was told.

Principal Edward Melly said his pupils have become "sacrificial lambs" in the move to raise money for the redress scheme.


"It's the old cliche of 'the sins of the fathers', but why should our young generation be paying for those misdeeds?" he said.

"The Government wants us to bring in a well-being programme this year, getting students fit and healthy.

"So how can we possibly stand over selling off two-thirds of our playing fields?"

A statement from the Christian Brothers said total land transfers by the order will mean the school will have received 6.5 acres over the years. It will also donate €1.3m in cash to the school.

"As with any land sale, this was not an easy decision," said Brother Edmund Garvey, chairperson of the order's trustees.

"But it was taken having made very substantial provision for the college's reasonable future needs, having sought profession advice and having consulted with the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, as licensee of these lands, over the past 12 months."

Questions to Education Minister Richard Bruton's office on why the State was insisting on cash went unanswered last night.

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